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
Nine students passed their certification test on Thursday for the National Health Career Association for the CCMA exam.
All nine are graduating high school as the Class of 2021 and are Certified Clinical Medical Assistants. A total of 12 students were enrolled in the clinical internship with instructor Christie Hooper at WHHS.
The three remaining students can still take the test and be certified in 30 days.
The nine new CCMA certifications are:
Click on an image to enlarge:
Students from the White House High School cosmetology team competed at the Sumner County Skills USA Competition this weekend, with Amanda Suttle winning first place and Kyleigh Husted second.
Congratulations to Kyleigh and Amanda, and enjoy these photos from our cosmetology kids!
Photos by Kris Freeman
The White House Blue Devils are the No. 1 seed in the District 9-AA Tournament for baseball and will host the top side bracket of the postseason event starting Friday.
In the double elimination format of the postseason for baseball, the top and lower half of the bracket will play a college-regional style bracket until one winner from each side emerges. Those two teams both advance to the region tournament and then would play each other for the district championship.
In a seven-team district, the champion and number one seed only has three teams in the bracket. The lower bracket has four.
Tickets should be on GoFan but as of yet links have not been released.
By Kris Freeman for White House High School
Senior Femi Richards qualified on Wednesday for the sectional round of the TSSAA Track and Field competition. During the sub-sectional at Hendersonville High School, Richards tied his personal best in the high jump with a six-foot jump over the bar, and finished in third place.
He was the Sumner County champion in the same event, but the sub sectional round competes against several large schools in the upper Middle Tennessee regional area.
Several other White House athletes competed in the sub sectional field events on Wednesday, while the running events are set for Thursday.
The sectional round is May 12-13th at Ravenwood High School.
Photos provided by Main Street Preps and The Gallatin News
Dustin Palmer, senior left handed pitcher and center fielder for the White House Blue Devils, signed to play college baseball with Roane State Community College in Harriman, Tenn.
Palmer helped lead the Blue Devils to a regular season District 9-AA championship and a number one seed in the upcoming district tournament.
Students from Doug Lyles and Shawn Gray’s classes at White House High School automotive placed on Saturday in the Sumner County Skills USA Competition at Gallatin High School.
Luke Trent placed First, Daelan Woorley placed Second and Austin Vickers placed Fourth. Mr Lyles would also like to recognize the following students who served in leadership roles on Saturday, Doug Wallace, Austin Vaughn, Waylon Riddley, Wesley Cobb, Katlyn Stevenson, Jacob Ruffing, David Martin and Bishop Oaks.
Photos provided by Doug Lyles
By Joel Clinger for Main Street Preps and The Robertson County Connection’
The Cheatham County softball team faced the Lady Devils in the first round of the District 9-AA tournament Wednesday just nine days after falling to them on senior night. The Lady Cubs held a 3-0 lead in that game but were unable to hold on.
On Wednesday, they made the plays when they needed to and advanced to the winners’ bracket with a 9-1 win.
“I was really proud of them,” Cheatham County head coach Jahcenda Garrett said. “Beginning of the season, towards the middle, they couldn’t finish a game. Them coming out here and getting that win after we lost to them when we knew we shouldn’t have lost to them that last time, it’s really good.”
Cheatham County started the scoring with two runs in the third inning and held off any White House comeback attempt. The Lady Cubs added four more in the fifth and three in the seventh to put the game out of reach.
Macie Harter (two), Ansley Pfeffer (two), Harper Dee, Natalie Davenport, Abbigail Cannon and Bailey Cohen, all scored runs for the Lady Cubs. Harliann Gibbs got the start on the mound, pitching four scoreless innings with four strikeouts.
This is the first district tournament win for Garrett in her three-year tenure with the Lady Cubs. She said it will be easier heading to the next round with no possibility of being eliminated, and they get to play and go home early.
“We’re going to have to be back out here at 4 o’clock tomorrow, but it’s so much easier,” Garrett said. “I like it a lot, and we’re done by six o’clock.”
The Lady Cubs will face the regular-season district champion Lady Patriots of White House Heritage. Garrett said her focus will be on the simple things.
“Making the plays we’re supposed to make and timely hitting, if we can do that, we can play with anybody in the district,” Garrett said.
White House had opportunities to get on the board but just could not get the runners home. They left a total of six runners on base from the third inning to the sixth.
“I was disappointed,” White House head coach Cindy Towers said. “We are a better team than what we showed today. We didn’t capitalize on situations that we should have. We just didn’t play smart ball.”
The fourth-seeded Lady Devils fall to the losers’ bracket where they await the loser of the Westmoreland-Greenbrier game.
“We’re at the bottom now,” Towers said. “We’re going to have to fight and scratch. It’s not that it’s impossible. It’s possible, but it’s going to be tough.”
White House High School senior Madison Freeman won the state championship in the Tennessee Speech and Debate Tournament in impromptu speaking on Saturday, April 24th.
Freeman is a two-time state champion in two separate categories, also winning her sophomore year. Last year’s tournament was affected by COVID-19.
Four total speech team members placed at the event, including senior Danielle Williams with third place in program oral interpretation and senior Rebekah Langford in sixth place in humorous interpretation.
Sophomore Sydnee Bailey finished in second place in original oratory.
Freeman, Williams, Langford and Bailey all had previously qualified for the National Speech and Debate Tournament to be held in June.
Caleb Dorris also competed with the team at the state tournament but did not place in the final rounds.
The White House High School speech team is coached by Emily Higdon.
The three seniors have already made collegiate plans, with Freeman heading to George Washington University, Williams heading to Western Kentucky University and Langford heading to the University of Alabama.
The White House High School Theatre will perform Shrek the Musical on Thursday May 6th through Saturday May 8th.
Shows on Thursday and Friday are at 7 p.m. and the Saturday show is at 3 p.m. There is a band alumni concert at 1 p.m. on Saturday also.
Tickets for the theatre production are on GoFan online at this link. If you purchased tickets prior to the show dates being moved, your tickets will be honored for the same night you purchased them last week.
The District 9-AA Softball Tournament of the TSSAA opens Wednesday May 5th at Greenbrier High School in Robertson County.
The top seed White House Heritage will receive a first-game bye as there are only seven teams in the double elimination tournament.
The first game is Wednesday at 4:00, with games also at 6:00 and 8:00.
The seeds are:
If a team loses, they drop into a designated slot by game number into the losers bracket.
If a losers bracket team wins the district championship, they will be required to beat the winners bracket champion twice in the final round.