Campbell County Middle School Baseball will begin its second official season under the CCHS umbrella, a vision of head coach Brad Collette to be a developmental program for the High School. Last year’s team finished 4-11 and gained valuable experience. The sophomore edition includes the addition of 6th graders with future hopes of a Middle School JV and Varsity that will transition to the High School JV and Varsity.
Many of last year’s alums moved up to the High School such as James Andrew Evans, Jacob Monday, Nick Bailey, David Agular, and Joseph Williams. Middle School head coach Andy Ellison still had the luxury of his top 2 returning pitchers in Tate McGhee and Andrew Evans. LMS football/basketball player Ethan Jeffers joined the team to add pitching depth but 2 days before the season opener was hit squarely in the eye by an errant throw in the batting cage and was subsequently not available for the opener. Evans sprained his ankle at the East Tennessee Basketball Championships in Sevierville and then came down with bacterial pneumonia; Evans first practice was the day before the opener and his arm would not be ready on such short notice.
Ellison went with Tate McGhee, last year’s workhorse (17 innings-team best) vs. Clinton. The starting lineup for the season opener was Farris SS; Markley C; McGhee P; Evans 1B; Orick LF; Sanders CF; Ford RF; Ellison 3B; Miller 2B.
McGhee walked the first batter to set up the first ever CCMS 6-4-3 double play (Ferris to Miller to Evans). After a double, McGhee got the Clinton clean up guy to ground out to Evans to end the first. McGhee threw 20 pitches. In the bottom of the first Adam Markley walked but was stranded as the Clinton ace took 18 pitches to retire CCMS. In the second McGhee gave up a single and CCMS committed an error but both runners were left on base as McGhee struck out the side taking 23 pitches to finish the inning. CCMS put two runners on the bottom of the second with Brady Orick getting hit by a pitch and Payton Ellison walked but they were stranded; the Clinton ace taking 21 pitches. After 2 innings the game was a classic pitching duel.
In the third inning the first Clinton hitter grounded out Ellison to Evans. McGhee ran into trouble with the middle of the order giving up a walk, an inside the park home run, a triple and two singles. A fielder’s choice and a called strike out ended the inning with Clinton on top 3-0. McGhee threw 28 pitches in the inning.
As the temperature continued to drop with torrid winds so did the CCMS offense. The Clinton ace needed just 15 pitches to retire CCMS in the bottom of the third. Adam Markley collected the first hit of the season, and the only CCMS hit of the game and then stole second and went to third on the catchers throw. He was left on base, one of six in the game.
With frigid conditions McGhee’s arm grew tired in the fourth and after 90 pitches Ellison was forced to remove McGhee. With Jeffers and Evans not available Ellison had to go with a less experienced bullpen. In the inning CCMS pitchers walked 10 batters, hit 3, and gave up 3 hits allowing 13 runs to score. In the bottom of the 4th CCMS stranded 2 runners, as the Clinton pitcher needed 21 pitches to end the inning and the game: Clinton 16-0.
There were bright spots to build on:
Tate McGhee seemed in mid-season form. He walked 3 and struck out 5 in 3.1 innings of work.
Last year’s thorn in the flesh was poor defense (.777 fielding pct.). This game the team fielded .944. Only one player from last year even had a fielding pct higher (.952, Jacob Monday).
Last year’s team averaged nearly 4 errors/game. CCMS made only 1 error in the opener.
Brandon Miller worked all winter with the high school team, lifting weights, conditioning and practice. Improved? Last year the second baseman made 5 putouts and 3 assists in the opener alone Miller made 3 putouts and an assist. Last year he fielded .615, in the opener he was flawless plus he was the integral part of turning the first ever 6-4-3 double play.
Adam Markley played 3 positions, made 4 putouts and 1 assist, and was 1-1 with a walk and a steal.