The David Crockett baseball team’s swan song in the Big Five Conference has been more of an ugly duckling.
The Pioneers (0-12, 5-23), who will drop down to the Class 3A Upper Lakes Conference next season, went winless in the league.
But they did beat Elizabethton for the second time in 15 days on Friday, and coach Spencer Street would like to think it can help generate some momentum for the postseason.
“It’s obviously been tough, not the results that we want,” Street said. “But I feel like we’ve got a group that really likes each other and they have worked hard regardless of what the results are showing. I’ve seen we’re very capable of competing with anybody we’ve played against. We’ve competed with some really good teams and we’ve taken some good teams down to the wire.”
Pitching and defense have shown marked improvement in recent weeks.
“Our pitching has shown, especially a little more lately,” Street said, “that we’re capable of relying on three or four guys to get us out of a jam or just do their job and not put guys on base. And we have three or four of those guys coming back next year. So that’s exciting.
“Our defense has been much better lately. Guys are figuring out how to play more than one position. We’ve moved guys around a lot for pitching matchups or giving guys rest or whatever.”
Inexperience has been Street’s nemesis this year.
“We didn’t have a guy in the lineup this year that played more than eight or nine varsity games last year,” he said.
That shouldn’t be the case in 2024.
“We’ve gotten a lot of production out of freshman A.J. Ford and several juniors – Nate Walters, Ayden Mullikin,” Street said. “Payson Archer’s been really good for us behind the plate. Jake Fox has been really good at the plate here lately.
“Those juniors – Payson Archer, Ronnie Hall, Jake Fox, Connor Rary, Connor Hendrix, Ayden Mullikin and Nate Walters have all been big parts of what we’re trying to do. They’re a great group and they work their butts off.”
Street added that this year’s seniors have handled adversity with class.
“The seniors have been a great group,” he said. “They’re good leaders in the clubhouse. They’ve been a really fun group to have. … Hopefully, rolling into the tournament, we can make a little noise and compete and send these guys out on a high note that they deserve.”
Crockett will open district play against Dobyns-Bennett, which was the fourth seed despite finishing in the three-way tie for second with Daniel Boone and West Ridge.
Daniel Boone (6-6, 13-10) assured itself of not having to play Crockett in the District 1-4A play-in game when it won 5-1 at West Ridge on Saturday. The game began on Friday and was suspended due to rain.
Boone, the No. 3 seed, will open district play against the second-seeded Wolves as well.
Boone’s Jaiden Henry allowed one unearned run in four innings for the victory against West Ridge. Braydon Norton pitched three innings of scoreless relief.
Brogan Jones drove in two runs for the Trailblazers, who were coming off a tough 4-3 loss at Science Hill on April 25 at TVA Credit Union Ballpark.
The ‘Blazers built a 3-1 lead before giving up three unearned runs to spoil at gutsy outing on the mound from left-hander Aiden Roller.
“It was a tough-luck loss,” Boone coach Scott Hagy said. “Aiden pitched well enough to win. That’s the bottom line. They didn’t hit very many hard against him. …
“A team like that – you can’t afford to give ‘em runs or extra outs. And we did a couple of things like that. … It was a good ballgame. We played hard. We didn’t quit. We still battled there at the end.”