Sevier County looks to replicate last year's breakout season
A year after putting together the best baseball season Sevier County High School has ever seen, the Smoky Bears want to take it a step further.
But there’s an understanding in preseason camp that getting back to the sectional playoff — and possibly making it to the state tournament — won’t be any easier just because Sevier County has been there before. It may even be a little tougher the second time around.
“Last year was a great experience,” said Bears coach Casey Taylor. “It was a phenomenal way to really promote your program. We had some guys really receive some accolades (but) this program has never been through ‘doing it again.’ … The details of this group is either going to make or break them because they’ve got some talent. There’s no disputing that.”
Taylor led Sevier County within a handful of innings of the state tournament last year before the Bears eventually fell to Farragut in the sectional round. If Sevier County is to repeat that 32-win season it will do so without District 2-AAA player of the year Dillon Cate and All-District honorees Nick Clabo, Dylan Ford and Jeff Henry.
That’s not a concept lost on the Bears’ Logan Brett, who said he and his teammates know they have to step up.
“We’re a different team,” Brett said. “We’re a lot different than we were last year. We’re obviously going to have to score a lot more runs and we know that. Obviously losing Dillon Cate and a couple role-playing guys in Dylan Ford and Nick Clabo — Nick Clabo the clutch-type guy — we’ve got to fill some big shoes. We’ve got to score a lot of runs. We’ve got to have some pitchers step up.”
There’s no shortage of players who will have that opportunity. Taylor calls his second iteration of the Bears a versatile group. Led by a bulging junior class, Sevier County has lots of former role players who must step into bigger spots.
That may not be truer than from a pitching perspective. Taylor said his team may not necessarily have premier, front-line pitchers — like it did last year in Dillon Cate — but there are plenty of guys that could grow into that role. When Taylor says he “has a lot of arms,” he means it, rattling off as many as 11 names, including assumed No. 1 Nick Osborne, who will contribute on the mound this season. Taylor said Zach Linginfelter will have the opportunity to slip into that No. 2 role while guys like Brett, Kody Paul, Devante Matthews and Dallas Gossett among others will also have the opportunity to pitch in starting or relief roles.
“We have a lot of, I’d say a little bit above average pitchers,” Gossett said. “We need to work on that and get those people to be really good pitchers. … We just haven’t been in those (clutch) situations yet.”
It’ll be a bit of the on-the-job training for the Bears this season. Taylor said Osborne may be the most versatile of this year’s group, playing almost everywhere but behind the plate. He drove in nearly 50 runs a year ago, but order to do that again, he’ll need his teammates to reach base.
The Bears need guys who in the past have just been figuring things out to perform this year and fill the gap left by graduation. Taylor said it’s a gap that’s the biggest in District 2-AAA.
“It’s a whole lot of pressure,” said shortstop Alan Silva. “To set the season that we did last year and do it again, that’s a big role that we’re going to have to accomplish but I think we can do it with this team."