Spring is in the air, and Happy Valley Middle School spring sports have begun with the crack of bats and the passing of batons as baseball, softball and track are no longer on the horizon, but are here at last.
The softball program, led by head coach Mandy Greer, is back to defend their conference and district titles won in 2011.
In 2012, the Junior Lady Warriors have picked up where they left off and avenged last season losses to Greeneville with an early victory over the Greene Devils.
“We have started out pretty good so far this year,” said Greer. “We beat Greeneville, who beat us twice last year, so that was good. We beat Unaka and had a game against Hampton we couldn’t finish because of thunder and rain.
“So far I am pleased with how we have played.”
The Lady Warriors boast solid pitching and defense with Kaylee Johnson and Kenzie Davis in the circle and Kennedy Richardson behind the plate handling the catching duties.
“This is a focused group that knows each other very well,” Greer said. “They know what to do on the field before I even have to tell them. They know what base to throw to and Kennedy calls a good game as the catcher.
“They are very dedicated and love playing the game. I couldn’t ask for a better group of kids.”
The infield consists of Jamie Lee Clark at first base; Davis will be at second base when she’s not in the circle. At shortstop will be Emily Whitaker and manning the hot corner will be Beth Reece.
In the outfield from left to right are Kaitlyn Roberts, Sydney Puckett and Vanessa Dykes.
“These kids put in a lot of work on their own time, playing travel ball and things like that,” Greer said. “It helps when kids are self-motivated like a lot of these kids are. We have a lot of the younger kids on JV that are going to be good players also. They come out already prepared and they push each other.”
On Thursday afternoon the Junior Warriors swept a twin bill from Cloudland by 15-0, and 10-0 scores, which shows that HVMS is a force to be reckoned with.
Head coach Daniel Carder’s squad is seasoned and ready to play up to last season’s 13-3 finish. The Warriors won the district championship after a second-place regular season showing.
“If we play like we are capable of we, will be very competitive,” Carder said. “Right now the hitting has yet to come around, but we are ahead defensively. Hitting is usually slow to come around, but once it starts catching on it becomes contagious.”
On the mound the Warriors will have Caleb Jones, Justin Morefield, Forrest Hall, Ryne Baines and Duncan Hodge to fill out its rotation, with Morefield also seeing duty behind the plate.
Baines will be at first base when not pitching and Hall will be at second base. The shortstop position will be manned by Taylor Hurley with Tyler Hurley at third.
In the outfield, the Warriors possess speed and defensive ability with Colby McKeehan in left, Jones in center and Dustin Sams in right.
Designated hitter will be Nathan Kyte in most contests.
“We are in a tough conference and we will have to be at our best,” said Carder. “Johnson County is strong, and returns a lot of players. We have an opportunity to win the conference and it all starts now. We have games next week against Hampton and Providence Academy on the road and they will be tough games.
“Providence in particular is strong, so we’ll see how we react next week.”
HVMS has started 3-1 this season with the twin sweep of Cloudland.
TRACK AND FIELD
Even with 54 members on the HVMS Track and Field squad, the Warriors will find competition difficult to find this season as they are not related to a conference. But head coach Jennifer Peters will still demand the best of her athletes in whatever event they perform in.
At the T.A. Dugger meet from Thursday, the Warriors put forth a good showing in most categories — with M.J. Camargo and Tim Masters placing second and third, respectively, in the high jump.
“At the meet we did really well,” said Peters. “I have a really motivated team this year, which has been a first for me. I have only been coaching four years now, but this group knows what to expect. They want to train harder and longer than I even expected and they have been a joy to coach.”
The eighth-grade class on the boys’ side has Tyler Torbett running the 200-meter event, while Wyatt Hall will anchor the 4×200 relay. Daniel Belisle will throw discus and Masters is a high jumper.
Christian Derocher and Logan Sloan are mile runners.
“We have a lot of kids with speed,” said Peters. “We are blessed in that area. I think we will do well in those events — the four-by-two and 100-meter dash I think are strong events for us.”
The eighth-grade girls are Tiffany Baker doing shot-put, Summer Franklin long jump, McKinley Moore is a distance runner (mile) Sarah Atkinson throws the discus and Samantha Mungwira competes in the 100-meter dash.
Chrissie Lunceford is a member of the girls 4×200 relay team.
“A lot of coaches from other sports have encouraged their players to come out for track,” said Peters. “It’s a great way to stay in condition and at the same time compete at their level. In track you have all shapes and sizes of athlete’s that compete and I think that’s great.
“We have a very coachable group here with great leadership qualities. Our next meet is not until the end of April but we will continue to practice hard and get ready for that.”