By Gene Renfro
ELIZABETHTON — Writer Richard Bach said “sooner or later, those who win are those who think they can.”
That is what the T.A. Dugger junior varsity baseball team thought and accomplished this season by posting a 9-6 mark, the first winning season in recent history. The squad, with a mix of seven from the seventh grade and half a dozen sixth graders, improved by two wins from the 2011 season, which broke the record for victories in the modern history.
“Heart – all of our guys showed heart, speed and determination – I think made the difference,” coach Adam Slaughter said about what led to the success. “They had fun, a lot of fun with it.”
For Slaughter, it was his first season to lead the junior varsity baseball squad. He also talked about how a team goal was to go out and have fun. That came in the preseason when it was predicted that the team would not finish above .500 due to playing so many varsity squads. The more victories racked up, then the more fun the team had according to the coach.
Of those aforementioned sixth graders, five saw time as primary starters. Behind the plate was Ethan Eggleston with Kellan Hall at first, and John Ramsey on the other side of the infield at third. Ryan Wetzel looked over left field while Caedan Kerr patrolled right field.
Eggleston also provided a spark in the batting order from the lead-off spot. Kerr also provided a batting average of over .400.
A pitching duo that Slaughter put in the middle of the diamond was Garrett Hartley and Elijah Andrews, both left-handed hurlers. Hartley, when not pitching, remained in the middle of the field, just in centerfield.
Isaac Johnson and Jordan Simerly shared duties at second while Zeb Moore was at short. Moore was one of the key RBI providers, as was Ramsey and Mason Kechter.
The collection of T.A. Dugger players posted four wins over Cloudland, two more over Hampton before victories over Unaka, Happy Valley and an 11-5 decision against Church Hill Friday to conclude the junior varsity schedule.
The victory over the Junior Warrior squad was the first setback for the junior varsity squad from Happy Valley when T.A. Dugger won a 1-0 contest on April 10.
“The team should be pretty good next year with the experience they got this year,” Slaughter said about the sixth-graders returning to play with the junior varsity next season.
Upon the completion of the junior varsity slate, the varsity team has plucked away some of the players to finish out the schedule.
“I told them they had a great season and proved everyone wrong,” Slaughter said about the final speech to the squad. “They showed a lot of heart in that last game. From here on out, whatever they do, you play with that same determined way. You will go far in life no matter what you do.”