That’s the case for some of the teams from smaller schools competing in the East Tennessee Summer High School Baseball League. Brent Davis, who coaches the Raiders — with players from Sullivan North and Sullivan South high schools — talked about how playing teams from large schools like Science Hill, Dobyns-Bennett and Tennessee High is helping making his boys better.
“The better talent we face, the better off we are,” Davis said. “It helps the kids to see a lot of fast pitching. We played the team from Greeneville, and they had seven or eight pitchers who threw in the 80s. It helped them to get a look at that and time it up.”
On Tuesday, the Raiders lost 9-3 to a team from Elizabethton.
Facing a variety of pitchers, three players managed to get hits. Lead-off hitter Tyler Depriest and Jett Wallen, batting in the No. 2 spot, both had singles. Wallen was productive all three times he was at the plate with a walk, a single and a sacrifice bunt. Depriest is described by his coach as a consistent hitter who can call his game behind the plate.
Brody Cloud had a two-run single, while Jonah Leslie, Chandler Raleigh and Braden Wilhoit got on base multiple times.
Davis believes the summer league will help when the school ball starts. He looks at a league rival of North’s and how University High features a strong lineup.
“You look in the league North plays in, you have University High — which has good pitching and hits the ball very well,” Davis said. “They’re a very good fastball hitting team. But I’m also proud of my kids. They work hard and enjoy this.
“It’s helping the kids out where they missed the high school year. It’s given them more opportunity. They’re getting quality reps and good timing. We hope they continue this summer league.”
The players from Sullivan South include Cody Pugh, who is a top pitcher with great speed on the bases. Jacob Light has a really good fastball, and Kolby Crawford has been hitting well as of late and is a great fielder.
While he’s seen improvement from players at the plate, Davis sees the summer league even more beneficial for the ones on the mound. The Raiders threw three different pitchers in four innings against the Cyclones.
“Chandler Raleigh had been pitching well, so we started him,” Davis said. “The other days, my son Seth Davis pitched well. We brought Brayden (Wilhoit) in and Jonah (Leslie) is another kid we put out there. At North, these are going to be the kids pitching, so we have to get them as much work as we can for the coaches.”
The Tuesday contest was also beneficial to the Cyclones team.
A few of the highlights included Zac Workman going 3-for-3 with a triple and three runs scored, and Bryson Rollins going 2-for-3 with two RBIs.
Jaden Anderson and Wesley Shankles each scored two runs.