By Russell Vannozzi for The Robertson County Connection
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted baseball as much as any sport, and the fallout is just beginning.
High school and college seasons were canceled shortly after they started. MLB Spring Training was stopped and has yet to resume as owners and players squabble over money.
Now, college baseball programs are facing a roster crunch of epic proportions thanks to a shortened MLB Draft and the logjam created by players being granted an extra year of eligibility.
One group has been especially affected: unsigned 2020 high school seniors.
Many were planning to use the spring baseball season as a final audition and have been left in the cold. Recent White House Heritage graduate Logan Gann is one of them.https://caf33354c1edea54ed4b7e8d9aaf8351.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
“I talked to a couple (college) coaches who said they would come to some games, but that didn’t happen,” said Gann, who hit .462 in 2019 and hopes to walk on at Tennessee Tech. “We didn’t have any games.”
The anatomy of the problem
Put simply: there is an oversupply of baseball players with college eligibility.
In a normal year the MLB Draft would have lasted 40 rounds (approx. 1,200 selections) and graduating college seniors would have exhausted their eligibility.
This year the draft was shortened to just five rounds (160 selections) as MLB owners try to cut expenses in the wake of canceled games and lost revenue. That means hundreds of high school and college players who could have gone pro are now stuck in the college ranks.
Plus, the NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA each granted all spring sports athletes an extra year of eligibility because college seasons were cut short.
In turn, a roster frenzy was created. Nearly 1,000 players have entered the NCAA transfer portal, according to D1Baseball.com.
“It’s a snowball effect,” said Colton Provey, director of scouting for Prep Baseball Report Tennessee. “There’s not a whole lot of winners.”
The NCAA has since eliminated its 35-man roster limit for the 2020-21 school year, and the NAIA and NJCAA don’t have as strict of roster limits (some also have junior varsity teams).
“Some colleges aren’t sure where their own players are going,” White House Heritage coach Chris Logsdon said. “I think everybody is kind of looking at each other and asking, ‘What are we going to do?’”
With more seniors returning to school and plenty of proven transfers for college coaches to choose from, the market for unsigned high school seniors has dried up.https://caf33354c1edea54ed4b7e8d9aaf8351.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
“It’s sad for a lot of reasons,” Old Hickory Baseball Club coach Robbie Sinks said. “I feel the worst for high school and college seniors. But college seniors got a little reprieve – they can come back. High school seniors didn’t get a reprieve.”
Even those who have signed are entering different circumstances than they were expecting. Incoming players will compete with more returnees for limited spots in the lineup – the trickle-down effect of an added year of eligibility.
“If a kid has signed, they are going into a deep, deep pond,” Sinks said. “Normally it would just be a pond. It’s a different ballgame now.”
Added Provey: “It makes it tough on those high school senior guys. Unintentionally, they’re competing with guys that may be three or four years older, which is tough sledding.”
College options limited
Former Hendersonville pitcher Caid Sanders is in a similar position as Gann. Though he was hoping to earn a baseball scholarship at a smaller school, Sanders has an academic scholarship at Alabama and will attempt to join the Crimson Tide as a walk-on while studying marine biology.
“If I don’t make the team, I will still probably end up going to school there and just play club baseball,” he said. “But right now, goal No. 1 is making their team.”
Not everyone is fortunate to have a backup plan at a university.
Old Hickory Baseball Club has two unsigned grads – Charlie Albamont (Father Ryan) and Joey Soporowski (White House) – who have yet to hear from any colleges. With no scholarship opportunities, both are considering trying out for junior college programs.
“The amount of scholarships they can give out, especially this late, is really small,” Soporowski said. “That’s one of the hardest things.”
Throwbacks Baseball Club has five unsigned seniors including Hayes Biemesderfer (Northwest), Jerrett Edmondson (Sycamore), Case Fedun (Overton), Sam Galbraith (homeschool) and Grant Pinson (MBA). Three of them have college offers or interest.
Throwbacks coach Michael Brown feels the pain of late signees and is doing everything he can to get his players noticed. Brown inked with Trevecca in May 2014 after completing his high school career at Sycamore.
“I understand the pressure and the stress,” he said. “My job is to alleviate as much of that stress as possible.”
Dreams still alive
Sanders and his former Hendersonville teammates have a sour taste in their mouths. They wanted to finish their playing careers on their own terms.
At least one classmate who wasn’t planning to play college baseball – Hendersonville infielder Andruw Stratton – is now trying to walk on at Chattanooga State Community College.
“It’s really hard to end your baseball career like we did,” Sanders said. “If you can (play), everybody wants to keep playing.”
Others have found motivation in the lack of college interest. Soporowski, a left-handed pitcher, has increased his velocity from 75 to 84 mph over the last year and continues to add strength in the weight room.
“It just makes me want to work harder,” he said.
The summer baseball season has also taken on an increased importance. It’s one final chance for 2020 grads to prove themselves to college coaches.
“Usually summer baseball is pretty laid back,” Brown said. “But since these kids didn’t have a senior season of school ball, it’s more important. It’s crunch time now for some of these kids.”
The college dream won’t necessarily be over for players who don’t earn offers by the end of the summer.
BC Athletics, based in Knoxville and owned by former MLB player Brett Carroll, recently launched a post-grad baseball program that allows unsigned 2020 players to improve their skills, play against college teams and maintain their eligibility.
“It’s not the end of the road if they don’t get an offer,” Brown said. “They can go to a post-grad program and get bigger, stronger and faster and still have a chance.”
However, each unsigned player will eventually have to face reality. Every baseball career ends one day.
Thanks to the pandemic, that day could come sooner than expected for some.
“I’m still hoping to play,” said Albamont, the utility player from Father Ryan. “If it doesn’t happen, then it doesn’t happen. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be.
“But I’m still trying.”
By Kris Freeman for White House High School
CUNNINGHAM – There’s a picture on the wall at White House High School’s field house called “Building a Burden” with a rain-soaked player on the field from the 1980s.
Friday night’s win in a thunderstorm delay at Montgomery Central looked a lot like the same old White House which dominated the gridiron for decades, with a 7-0 shutout after an opening touchdown drive.
The victory pushed the Devils to 3-6, and left them one win over Greenbrier in the final week of the season from making the Class 4-A playoffs. White House will go for the postseason berth at 7 p.m. next Friday night on senior night at home. It was the 850th game in White House football history.
White House marched eight plays and 68 yards in the first four minutes of the game Friday, when Evan Shankle plunged in from three yards away and Bryson Harper kicked the extra point. For the remainder of the game, White House turned in one of its best defensive efforts of the decade, allowing only 68 yards of total offense by the Indians and seven first downs.
Shankle set up the score with a 50-yard run on third down.
“Anytime you can come up and play through the elements and the weather like this and get a win, we are thankful,” White House head coach Ryan Hamilton said. “It may not be the prettiest win, but it’s a win and we needed it, and we have to finish the job next week.”
Shankle, starting for two weeks at tailback in place of the injured Ranen Blackburn, rushed 24 times for 117 yards and a touchdown, and then split time at tailback and fullback in the second half as Blackburn returned for the first time in seven quarters of football since his injury against Heritage.
While Blackburn also added 64 yards on the ground, he completed 3-of-6 passes for 79 yards in the passing game.
“I am used to playing fullback and blocking for Ranen, so it’s definitely different,” Shankle said. “It’s been a nice change. I love running the ball. I don’t ever take a play off, it’s definitely more tiring but I just have to work through it. It’s a nice 1-2 punch though.
“Next week, we gotta win. We gotta make it to the playoffs.”
The story was also the White House defense. Montgomery Central was at the White House 33 after a 62-yard kick return following the touchdown, but the Blue Devils forced three punts and picked off three passes, while allowing just 1-of-8 third down conversions.
“I am very proud of our team, very proud of our coaches,” Hamilton said. “Our coaches coached their tail off and our kids played their tails off. The kids played together as a unit and played for each other and that’s all you can ask for.”
Matthew Miller ended one Central scoring threat with an interception at the 8-yard-line, then Bryson Harper picked off two passes in the fourth quarter. The first was a floater at the goal line with 5:43 left, and the second was leaping at the desperation heave from midfield with the clock hitting zero in the fourth quarter. Harper had two receptions for 56 yards, two interceptions, two passes broken up, three tackles, punted twice for 73 yards, and had a PAT kick and a 24-yard kick return.
The crucial play of the game from Harper was in the fourth quarter with just 20 seconds left. With the Blue Devils pinned inside the 20 and facing fourth down, Harper punted a low, bouncing kick past midfield and set up his game-sealing interception.
Central got three passes off, with Harper and Austin Beeson swatting down the first two, then the final one was picked off as the junior tip-toed the home sideline.
“I was just trying to get it on the ground so they don’t have time to do anything with it,” Harper said. “On defense we are just trying to swat it down at the end of the game.”
Shankle, as usual, played nearly every play in all three phases of the game, and led the defense with 12 tackles and three tackles for losses. Cole Pitt had two sacks, three tackles for losses and nine total tackles, but one of the sacks was waved off following a penalty for roughing the passer, as Pitt caught his hand under the back of the helmet on the hard tackle.
Caleb Dorris, Pierce Scholato and Rhys Blackburn all had five stops for White House.
Central could not gain anything solid on offense minus a 25-yard rush in the fourth quarter. But the Blue Devils kept them in the game with penalties, backing up as far as a 2nd-and-34 in the third quarter. Reece McAfee caught a 23-yard strike from Blackburn on third down, but the Devils went deep on fourth down.
Blackburn’s long toss down the right sideline to Harper fell incomplete on a play where the receiver had a wet ball but a clear path to the end zone, giving the ball over on downs. But when the Indians went three plays and out, White House went on the attack again.
The Devils marched nine plays and 57 yards into Montgomery Central territory, starting the possession on their own 8. But on third and long, Blackburn again went deep over the top and couldn’t connect to a leaping Dorris. On fourth down, the Blue Devils went for it from the Central 35-yard-line, and a roll-out pass to Layne Jenkins fell incomplete.
As Blackburn was slammed to the ground while throwing the football, there was hard contact between the Central defender, Jenkins and McAfee, but the incomplete call gave it back to the hosts.
That’s when Central ripped off a 25-yard run to put it into White House territory, but the drive stalled when the Devils forced a sack by Pitt, and then picked off the pass at the 1. The ball was under thrown and Harper was the front man of three defensive backs and took the interception.
White House could not completely run out the clock before punting it away with just seconds left in the game.
Dylan Frary started his second game at quarterback, and had a critical fourth down sneak for three yards, but then shared time with Blackburn as the Devils rotated traditional and wildcat quarterback formations in the second half.
“We operated in the same mindset as the last couple of weeks and put the players on the field who need to make plays for us,” Hamilton said. “We got Shankle playing both offense and defense, and then we had a chance to get Blackburn back in and get him going and see what we can do.
“I think right now we keep it simple. We got to practice hard and get healthy and we have to get ready for next week and we are not going to look any farther than that.”
White House (3-6, 2-3) will face Greenbrier in week 11. The Bobcats and Devils have three losses to the same teams, and two wins over the same teams. The formula is simple – the winner gets the number four seed behind Springfield, Creek Wood and White House Heritage for the playoffs.
The loser is done.
Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Dewey H. Whitson Stadium with Senior Night presentations at 6:30 p.m. for Sam Abshire, Nathan Bowman, Yaser Mahmoud, Drew Ferrell, Layne Jenkins, Evan Shankle, Hunter Searcy, Cole Hollinsworth and Quad Lucas.
WATCH THE GAME
PHOTOS: Angelene Cotto-Santiago, Maggie Kelly and Victoria Linton
Do you love the White House Blue Devils? Then go vote for them in the Main Street Preps Bracket Challenge! Voting is open now for the round of 16, and White House is up against Creek Wood High School. Let’s go! #bdp
The winning school gets $500!
The White House High School girls and boys bowling team traveled to Dickson County on Thursday and swept the match on the road.
The White House girls won 25-2, and the boys finished the march with a 15-12 victory. Congratulations to both teams on a great victory!
White House running back and linebacker Evan Shankle was named the Titans Insider Northern Sumner County Player of the Week, as announced by Zach Womble of The Gallatin News for Main Street Preps.
Shankle had his first career start at tailback, carrying the ball 28 times for 129 yards and a touchdown in a 27-7 loss to Creek Wood. Shankle also had six tackles on defense. Normally, Shankle plays all three phases of the game as a starter for the Blue Devils at fullback, linebacker and special teams. He leads the team with 96 tackles overall.
Shankle was filling in for injured Ranen Blackburn in the backfield.
By Kris Freeman for White House High School
LAFAYETTE – The White House High School cross country team is closing the 2020 season strong as five runners finished in the top 20 at the Macon County Invitational on Tuesday.
Three girls and two boys made up 25 percent of the best 20 runners, and White House got one final tune up with one race remaining on the schedule.
The White House girls finished third overall behind Station Camp and Gallatin, with the Bison claiming first with 49 points, the Wave second at 53 and the Devils third with 68. The lowest score is the total finishing position of the top runners and the team with the least combined points is the victor.
Junior captain Kerra Marsh finished sixth overall, with Hannah Barnes 14th and Emily Tiepelman 18th.
The boys team jumped ahead of Westmoreland among the teams in the final standings, a team that just finished ahead of them at the Sumner County Championships. White House was sixth overall in the boys team standings, with senior captain Cason Cooper fourth and Cooper Brinn 17th.
The team’s next regular season race is the Region 5 state qualifying meet on October 27th at Sanders Ferry Park in Hendersonville with approximately 16-20 total schools possible to compete.
The top three teams and any individual in the top 10 in boys or girls advance to the state tournament on November 5-6, which will be moved from The Steeplechase to Sanders Ferry Park for the first time in 50 years.
Photos by Noah Freeman
Hume Fogg 2, White House 1 in the Region 5-AA semifinals at Stratford High School.
The White House Lady Devils 2020 soccer season came to a close Tuesday night on the road in Nashville in the Region 5-AA semifinals. Hume-Fogg scored with 23 minutes left in the first and 21 minutes left in the second, before White House’s Morgan Potts scored with 10:38 remaining to get the Lady Devils within one.
By Kris Freeman for White House High School
WHITE HOUSE – It’s been a tough year for the White House Blue Devils at 2-6 and 1-3 in Region 5-4A, but the playoff scenario is not mathematically over, and the BDP boys may control their own destiny.
With wins at Montgomery Central and Greenbrier, White House would finish fourth at 4-6 (3-3). Four teams make the postseason.
|1||Creek Wood Red Hawks||4||0||8||0||249||73||Portland, Springfield|
|2||Springfield Yellow Jackets||4||0||7||1||246||102||Greenbrier, Creek Wood|
|3||WH Heritage Patriots||3||2||6||2||216||191||Montgomery Central|
|4||Greenbrier Bobcats||2||2||4||2||109||55||Springfield, White House|
|5||Montgomery Central Indians||1||3||3||3||47||99||White House, WH Heritage|
|6||White House Blue Devils||1||3||2||6||146||261||Montgomery Central, Greenbrier|
|7||Portland Panthers||0||5||2||7||186||305||Creek Wood|
Here are the playoff scenarios as best we could break it down after week nine. Buckle up, because this is a bumpy ride and things are going to get messy.
I have a headache. Go Blue Devils.
By Kris Freeman for White House High School
CHARLOTTE – It was clear the White House Blue Devils had one agenda Friday night at undefeated Creek Wood, to attempt to keep the game slow and in the middle of the field.
Despite a solid game plan with a bunch of youngsters in the lineup, White House fell 27-7 to the Red Hawks on senior night in Charlotte. Creek Wood (8-0, 4-0) capitalized on big plays and long drives to salt away the win, with tailback Brandon Porter rushing 13 times for 179 yards and a touchdown.
White House (2-6, 1-3) scored on the final possession of the game, marching 10 plays and 91 yards as senior Evan Shankle plunged into the end zone on a spinning run to the right on third down. Shankle, the starting fullback for White House, was forced into a tailback role Friday night with the Blue Devils nursing injuries and a patch work lineup.
The result was the first career 100-yard rushing game for Shankle with 28 carries for 129 yards and a score. Shankle typically plays every down on offense, defense and special teams, and added five tackles on defense.
But White House only mustered 179 yards total with Dylan Frary completing his only pass to Bryson Harper for 25 yards. It was the first career start at quarterback for the sophomore.
Frary marched the Devils down the field to open the game, managing a consistent run game and taking advantage of a big special teams play and a penalty. On 4th and 5 near midfield, Harper took a bad punt snap and rushed 11 yards, and was hit out of bounds for a 15-yard penalty. But on the next play at the Creek Wood 24, Shankle fumbled and Porter Matlock recovered the ball for the hosts.
Creek Wood responded with a 76-yard drive, but it was a microcosm of the entire night. Four different times in the game, Creek Wood needed more than 20 yards to move the chains, including two times on this drive. In each occurrence, Creek Wood exploded for a big play.
Elijah Donaldson fumbled on first and second down, and then scrambled for 31 yards on third and long. later he connected with Michael Harris for a 37-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-long again.
The Red Hawks got the first of two field goals by Gerardo Velasco to make it 10-0 at the half, nailing the 30-yarder in the second quarter from the left hash.
Creek Wood scored on the first drive of the third quarter when White House could not recover the pooch kickoff for just 13 yards.
Creek Wood went eight plays and 53 yards, and the Red Hawks continued to be successful on conversions. The hosts were 6-of-8 on third down while White House was 1-of-8. The lead grew to 17-0 on a 14-yard run by Porter.
Velasco added a short field goal in the third quarter to add to the lead, 20-0, and then Creek Wood drove 10 plays and 72 yards for the final margin when Donaldson ran it in on the roll out for a two-yard touchdown. Velasco was 3-of-3 on PAT.
Creek Wood had just six possessions in the game and scored on five, punting once. The Hawks added 390 yards of total offense, but were hurt by eight penalties for 85 yards. Donaldson was under pressure for much of the night but escaped and did not get sacked or turn over the football, completing 6-of-13 passes for 121 yards and a score, all six to a different receiver. He also ran six times for 37 yards.
White House methodically closed the game with a scoring drive, the big plays a 48-yard run by Shankle to put him over the 100-yard mark, and a 25-yard strike by Frary to Harper in the middle of the field.
White House had three defenders with 10 tackles including Cole Pitt, Rhys Blackburn and Layne Jenkins, while Pierce Scholato and Bryson Harper each had six tackles, Luke Kelton five and Sam Abshire four.
White House travels to Montgomery Central next week for a matchup with the Indians. At 2-6, the Blue Devils are still mathematically alive for a playoff spot with games at Central and hosting against Greenbrier remaining. White House would need to beat both teams and see where the standings fall to make the playoffs. Greenbrier and White House Heritage are battling for third, while Creek Wood and Springfield will play in week 10 for the region title.
Evan Shankle completed his first career 100-yard rushing game in his first start at tailback.
Evan Shankle scored his first touchdown.
Evan Shankle needs four tackles for the 100 tackle plateau for the season.
White House was playing without junior quarterback Ranen Blackburn, junior tailback Montrel Black and junior receiver Reece McAfee. The three have accounted for over 90 percent of the team’s offense for the season and 93 percent of the rushing offense.
Creek Wood takes the overall series lead at 3-2 in five games. White House won in 2014 and 2017, and Creek Wood has won from 2018-2020.
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Photos by Angelene Cotto-Santiago and Brooklyn Sharber