By: Trey Williams
Daniel Boone’s baseball team once again came painfully close to qualifying for the region last season, which will remain the goal despite losing Gavin Jones (Milligan University), Cole Bishop (Roane State), Preston Miller (Milligan
University), Anthony Edwards and Jackson Jenkins.
Replacing Jones and Miller on the mound won’t happen overnight, perhaps not even over 50 nights. But coach Scott Hagy has been encouraged by the performances in scrimmages.
Junior Brogan Jones, an East Tennessee State University commit, is expected to be a conference starter on the mound. Hard throwing sophomore righthander Brayden Blankenship could make conference starts as well.
Crafty junior left-hander Aiden Roller and sophomore Liam Strouth are also in line for meaningful innings. And 6-foot-3 freshman Graham
Jones, the brother of junior center fielder Griffen Jones, could have the highest ceiling of all. He’s already throwing in the upper 80s.
“He’s a good-looking young man,” Hagy said. “He throws hard. … Our pitching is a little ahead of where I thought we might be at this
Graham Jones hurt his hip lunging for the bag at first base while running out a ground ball in a scrimmage. Hagy said he might be unavailable or limited at the beginning of the season as he intends to err on the side of caution.
Replacing Bishop behind the plate won’t be an easy chore, but Hagy has been pleased with the progress of J.T. Sipos.
“Sipos has improved considerably behind the plate,” Hagy said. “Cole had an awfully good year last year. J.T.’s gonna have to continue to work hard, but he’s been a pleasant surprise back there as far as how far he’s come.”
Brogan Jones will lead off and play shortstop when he’s not pitching. Griffen Jones will be near the top of the lineup, too.
“Brogan and Griffen Jones are the only two starters we have back,” Hagy said. “We’re gonna depend on them. They’re gonna hit at the top of the lineup.
“Brogan’s an ETSU commit. He can play. There’s no question about it.”
Hudson York and Will Stevens can play first base. An elbow injury could limit York to a designated hitter role for the initial week or weeks of the season.
Senior second baseman Zach Zuelke swings a good bat. Tim McGonigle can play shortstop when Jones is on the mound. Junior Jake Davenport will start at third base.
The outfield includes senior Jackson Leonard in left field and Roller in right field. Blankenship can play all three outfield positions. Junior Brady Aldridge will also see time in the outfield.
Boone’s scrimmages were cause for cautious optimism.
“We’ve hit it well,” Hagy said. “We’ve looked good for the most part, so far (in scrimmages).” Hagy anticipates a small margin for error in a league that includes defending state champion Science Hill.
“Science Hill is the state champion until somebody beats ‘em,” Hagy said. “And with (Cole) Torbett on the mound they always have a plethora of arms they can run out there at you. Kingsport (DobynsBennett) is gonna be extremely hard to beat when (Jake) Timbes is on
the mound. He’s top-notch. Spencer (Street) has got arms and some returning players that can swing it (at David Crockett). West Ridge has Drew Hoover, an ETSU commit. From top to bottom, I think it’s gonna be strong.”