Wins were hard to find for Happy Valley’s baseball team last season, but the Warriors are a different bunch this year.
“I think it’s a testament to the type of hard work the kids have put in,” said head coach Caleb Moore. “They are finally starting to buy into the system and believe in the coaches, knowing we’re not going to harm them but make them better and take them to the next level.”
Happy Valley was 8-5 on the season heading into Monday’s game, but the record alone doesn’t tell the story. The Warriors aren’t far from double-digit wins as they suffered two tough losses to Elizabethton, one in extra innings, and a one-run decision to Sullivan East.
The toughest loss to date was Friday’s 9-8 decision against Unicoi County in Erwin, where the Warriors held an 8-6 lead going into the bottom of the seventh before losing on a pair of wild pitches.
“We were pleased with how they competed,” said Moore of his players. “But the way championship teams work, (the Blue Devils) believed the whole game they could win. We were right there on the cusp of doing something great. We were almost there.”
Happy Valley might have missed the mark in finishing off Unicoi, but it didn’t miss a sign of having a good team. The Warriors bounced back Saturday by defeating Unaka 4-2.
Moore, the former East Tennessee State star, said it was one of the best games of the year for his team.
“We played error-free ball,” he said. “I was very pleased with the attitude and energy. We could have hung it up, but these kids have a never-say-die attitude.”
The Warriors hit just .230 as a team in 2012, but are hitting over 100 points higher this year at .335. Senior third baseman Colton Haun has a .475 average while senior right fielder Sam Allie has three homers and several clutch hits.
“But honestly, it’s one through nine in our lineup,” said Moore.
On the mound, Moore said sophomore lefty Hunter Townsend and sophomore right-hander Correy Garland have been leading the way. Each player has an ERA under 3.00.
“Our goal is to get better every day,” said Moore. “It doesn’t matter who we are playing, we’ve got to fight through every game.”
Greeneville’s Zack Finchum is expected to make a full recovery after a scary injury last week.
The junior pitcher was hit in the face by a broken bat while trying to field a grounder back to the mound during a baseball game at Cumberland Gap. The aluminum bat deeply cut Finchum’s neck and broke his jaw.
Finchum underwent surgery Wednesday in Knoxville. Head football coach Caine Ballard said Finchum, who is a quarterback for the football team, will be on homebound for a few weeks while recovering from the injury. Ballard said he thinks Finchum will be ready for summer football work.
Prep signings: After a season at Massanutten Military School, Hunter LeVeau has made his college choice. The former Science Hill standout will sign with King College on April 17.
The signing will take place at 3 p.m. in Science Hill’s new gymnasium.
Baseball games of the week — (Today) Science Hill at Dobyns-Bennett, Daniel Boone at David Crockett, Unicoi County at Happy Valley, University High at North Greene, (Monday) Dobyns-Bennett at Sullivan South.
Almost every year, two of the best games of Northeast Tennessee’s regular season are the Hilltoppers versus the Indians. They’ve already had one dandy with Science Hill winning 5-4, and this one should be equally competitive. …
University High will try to get an edge in the Watauga Valley Conference against the preseason favorite Huskies.
Happy Valley and Elizabethton made two-spot jumps in this week’s Prep Top 10 baseball rankings.
Team W-L Prv
1. Unicoi County 12-1 1
2. Science Hill 15-3 2
3. Dobyns-Bennett 13-2 3
4. Sullivan South 12-4 4
5. Elizabethton 9-8 7
6. Daniel Boone 8-7 5
7. Tennessee High 6-4 6
8. Happy Valley 8-5 10
9. North Greene 4-1 nr
10. University High 6-3 8
Softball games of the week — (Today) Unicoi County at Happy Valley, (Thursday) Happy Valley at Elizabethton, University High at Unaka, (Friday) Dobyns-Bennett at Science Hill.
The Lady Warriors have been struggling lately, but are still in the Three Rivers Conference title chase as they meet the top two contenders. …
University High has a chance to erase last week’s upset loss to Unaka. If the Lady Rangers win again, UH’s Watauga Valley Conference title hopes will be in big jeopardy.
Greeneville used a win over Science Hill to edge up a spot to No. 4 in this week’s softball rankings.
Team W-L Prv
1. Daniel Boone 19-3 1
2. Unicoi County 13-3 2
3. Elizabethton 13-5 3
4. Greeneville 8-2 5
5. Science Hill 15-10 4
6. Volunteer 11-7 8
7. Dobyns-Bennett 15-9 6
8. Tennessee High 7-11 9
9. Happy Valley 6-9 7
10. University High 6-7 10