Instead the Warriors’ record reveals a 4-11 start, and an 0-6 mark in the Three Rivers Conference.
The problem was using an ineligible player for the first eight games of the season. The TSSAA was notified of the rule violation by another school, and Happy Valley was eventually fined $250 and a 5-3 start turned winless.
A former Daniel Boone student-athlete turned out to be the ineligible player. Junior Pope played football with the Trailblazers in the fall and made the baseball team at Boone this spring.
According to the official TSSAA letter to Happy Valley, the senior was dismissed from Boone’s baseball team and then transferred to play for the Warriors. The letter said Pope’s family got a residence in the Happy Valley zone but continued to maintain its previous residence in the Daniel Boone zone. By rule, the move did not justify a change in schools as the TSSAA does not recognize dual residences.
“He gave us paperwork, which we thought was proper,” said Happy Valley coach Caleb Moore, who declined to identify Pope by name. “But he still had another address, and another school turned us in.”
Happy Valley’s overall record is one thing, but the 0-6 league mark hurts the most, said Moore.
“I personally feel terrible for the players,” he said. “They put in the effort, and this takes away from them.”
Since the official TSSAA ruling, the Warriors have won four of six games. Moore’s overall approach helped the team in this situation.
“It’s a hurdle we’re trying to overcome, and the kids are doing a great job,” he said. “We’ve rebounded pretty well. As long as I’ve been here, we’ve tried to teach a next-man-up type attitude. We’ve tried to fill in the best we can. We have kids with the potential to step up and do a great job.
“Our goals don’t change. The kids understand it doesn’t matter if you’re 30-0, if you get beat the first two tournament games you’re done. Our goal is to be playing our best baseball when the tournament rolls around.”
Since returning from the season-opening Grand Slam Challenge in Murfreesboro, Science Hill’s baseball team has been smoking hot.
The Hilltoppers (12-4) won their final game in The ‘Boro, and are currently in a stretch where they have won 11 of 12 contests. Their lone loss in the hot streak was a 3-1 decision against rival Dobyns-Bennett, which is 13-1 on the season.
Science Hill has been scoring plenty of runs, and getting good pitching, too. In their last 12 games, the ’Toppers have scored at least nine runs nine times. They have outscored their opponents 116-37, an average score of 10-3 — which also says a little something about the strength of D-B’s pitching staff to hold the Hilltoppers to one run.
Science Hill head coach Ryan Edwards said his players are having better approaches at the plate.
“We’re hitting line drives and getting on top, where we were hitting lazy fly balls early on,” said Edwards. “It’s partially that, and partially getting in a groove and playing every day.”
The bottom line, said Edwards, is continuing to hit in key spots in the game.
“Whether or not we can score 10 runs every game, I would be happy if we get two-out hits and have timely hitting,” said Edwards. “If we can count on that, I think our pitching can keep us in the games.”
Leading the way at the plate is Kyle Ouellette, who is batting over .500 on the season and just ripping the cover off of the ball. Landon Knack is batting over .400, hitting .500-plus last week with six walks. He also had two wins and a save on the mound.
Also, catcher Matthew Beaird is starting to get in a groove at the plate, said Edwards.
Science Hill has a two-game series against Tennessee High coming up. The Hilltoppers play host to the Vikings today, and then travel to Bristol for a game Wednesday.
They play Pigeon Forge on Thursday in the DeMarini Classic at the University of Tennessee.
Follow Douglas Fritz on Twitter @FritzBlitzzz.
Baseball games of the week: (Today) Dobyns-Bennett at Daniel Boone, Sullivan South at Unicoi County, (Wednesday) Sullivan East at Elizabethton, (Thursday) Daniel Boone at David Crockett, (Friday) Daniel Boone at Unicoi County, (Monday) Science Hill at David Crockett, North Greene at Unaka.
Sullivan South and Unicoi County have a rematch of their March 19 encounter in Kingsport, where the Blue Devils won by a score of 3-2. First place in the Three Rivers Conference is on the line as both teams are 6-1 in the league. ...
Daniel Boone has a trio of very tough challenges. The Trailblazers sandwich a game against their biggest rival between two teams with a combined record of 26-2. ...
Unaka has a chance to make a real tight chase for the Watauga Valley Conference title.
There is stability at the top in this week’s Prep Top 10 baseball rankings:
Team W-L Prv
1. Dobyns-Bennett 13-1 1
2. Unicoi County 13-1 2
3. Science Hill 12-4 3
4. Sullivan South 10-5 5
5. Daniel Boone 9-4 6
6. Sullivan East 9-6 4
7. North Greene 12-2 7
8. Greeneville 8-5 10
9. Happy Valley 4-11 8
10. David Crockett 5-7 9
(tie) Elizabethton 6-10 10
Softball games of the week: (Today) David Crockett at Volunteer, North Greene at University High, (Thursday) Dobyns-Bennett at Science Hill, (Friday-Saturday) Wayne Hodge tournament at Elizabethton; (Monday) Volunteer at Daniel Boone.
David Crockett gets a chance to really mix things up in the Big Seven Conference title chase as it takes on the frontrunner. ...
University High will battle arguably its top league challenger. ...
Daniel Boone gets a second chance to prove it can make consistent contact against Volunteer fireballer Morgan Marshall.
With Unicoi County and Daniel Boone splitting a pair of Eastman games, there’s no definitive reason to swap places at the top of this week’s softball rankings. Meanwhile, University High continued to boost its stock.
Team W-L Prv
1. Unicoi County 13-4 1
2. Daniel Boone 16-8 2
3. Volunteer 16-5 3
4. Greeneville 11-1 5
5. University High 18-3 7
6. Elizabethton 10-3 4
7. Science Hill 13-9 6
8. Happy Valley 8-5 8
9. David Crockett 8-12 10
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10. Dobyns-Bennett 11-9 nr