By TREY WILLIAMS
First-year Daniel Boone baseball Scott Hagy was stricken with a new kind of senioritis in 2020 thanks to a season lost to the coronavirus pandemic.
He’ll never forget the memories this team was denied the opportunity to make thanks to seniors such as Tennessee signee Cade Elliott, Milligan signee Ryan Haney and fellow seniors Brodie Goodman (Roane State) and Colby Backus (Walters State).
The Trailblazers were 3-0 after outscoring Elizabethton, Riverdale and Morristown East by a combined 29-5 tally when their season was halted in Nashville on Friday, March 13.
A long-time coach at David Crockett, Hagy was optimistic about the Trailblazers’ chances for a memorably postseason run.
“I just had a feeling, especially after seeing ‘em, watching ‘em practice and perform a little bit, it (state tournament) was well within reach,” Hagy said. “They were hurt, especially those kids that really eat, drank and slept Daniel Boone baseball – the Cade Elliotts, the Ryan Haneys. You watch ‘em in the weight room all year long. Baseball’s all they do and you’re waiting for it all year and the anticipation, and everything gets built up.
“And then when that happened, that day down in Murfreesboro the last day I had ‘em in uniform, you could just tell the uncertainty at that point was devastating for ‘em. You could just see it in their faces, and at that point we thought we still might have a chance to play a little bit.”
Elliott, a 6-foot-6 hard-throwing left-hander, was the Big Seven Conference player of the year in 2019. Despite being deprived of a senior season, he will be remembered in the same breath as Daniel Boone greats such as Dylan Pratt and Jeremy Hall.
“I’d say that would be the three most highly touted in my time,” Hagy said. “Of course, I know (Caleb) Marmo is a very talented kid up in Johnson City, but I didn’t see anybody that was gonna be capable of doing the things at the plate and on the mound that Cade could do. He’s just an all-around good player, and if he gets a chance down at UT to do both, I think he’ll be able to do both down there. … I think everybody’s looking at Cade to pitch, but I think his hitting might surprise some people down in Knoxville.”
Backus, also a productive basketball player, was a power-hitting outfielder.
“I think Colby is going to the right place at Walters State,” Hagy said. “He’s a big, strong, extremely athletic kid, and once he concentrates on just baseball, he’s gonna do nothing but get better. He’s the kind of guy Dave Shelton looks for and he’s gonna fit in really well down there. He has that kind of potential.
“That first week he was on fire. He was lighting it up.”
Backus’ signing ceremony is pending, as is Goodman’s. The center fielder/leadoff batter is another southpaw that was also set to make his mark on the mound in 2020.
“He came in and shut the door on Riverdale,” Hagy said. “He worked on some different aspects of his pitching in the fall, and he gained a lot of confidence. He showed that the first week of the season. I think he never thought of himself as a pitcher, and all the sudden the light switch came on and he said, ‘Hmm, I can do this.’”
Haney could’ve had an all-conference type season on the mound for the ‘Blazers.
“He got off to a good start in Morristown in some nasty conditions,” Hagy said. “One thing that stood out to me about Ryan was he worked so hard to get where he was at, and he just didn’t seem to ever let anything bother him. If he had a bad bullpen, he’d just come back and regroup. He didn’t let things eat at him and took everything in stride, and I think that’s gonna serve him well, because it’s not all gonna be a bed of roses in college.”
Boone’s senior class included Kenneth “KC” Vicchio, Chase Chandler, Dustin Stanton, Chase McGonigle and Cade Norris. Vicchio was a platoon starter behind the plate.
“He’s a big, strong kid that was a good defender behind the plate,” Hagy said. “KC got off to a good start behind the plate. He’s a hard worker. He got some confidence in football, and I think it did carry over.”
McGonigle, a shortstop who also played basketball, was another defensive asset.
“I think from the time I started with Daniel Boone in July, and the good work that he had put in, he was probably the most improved player that I saw from then until it ended in March,” Hagy said. “He was starting at shortstop, just a good fielder, good headsy, intuitive player. And he was doing a really good job. … He had come a long way.”
Chandler made significant strides pitching. He was scheduled to pitch on the Friday when the season screeched to a halt.
“He was gonna see a lot of innings on the mound and he’s a good, solid defender at third base,” Hagy said. “He was gonna be a mid-week pitcher and a tournament-type pitcher on weekends. He had plenty of varsity experience and was looking forward to see what he could do as a senior. …
“He was scheduled to pitch that Friday in Murfreesboro. We were getting ready to take the field, and they said, ‘No, we’re done.’”
Stanton injured a shoulder in the offseason and would’ve been limited to batting this season.
“He’s a big, strong kid, a left-handed bat that could, you know, when he hit it, he hit it hard and you knew it,” Hagy said. “He was gonna do something good before it was over with. He’s that kind of guy.”
Norris was arguably Boone’s best one-on-one player in basketball, but he hadn’t played baseball at Boone.
“He hadn’t played the entire time in high school and he came out last summer,” Hagy said. “You know, we talked and had an understanding like, ‘You’ve got a long way to catch up, buddy.’ But he had come a long way and was doing very well. And I think had the season worn on like it should have, I think he would’ve contributed.”
Hagy held out hope that the season would resume in late April. The realization it wouldn’t be is something that’s still being digested.
“Gosh, that was tough,” he said. “And this group of seniors made it a very easy transition to come in as their coach; they really did. I don’t think we missed a beat.
“I know I didn’t do everything the same as Rob (Hoover), although there are many things that are very similar between Coach Hoover and I. The kids handled it well, accepted it and moved on. They did everything I asked ‘em to do. They didn’t question anything. They just wanted to play.”