Category Archives: high school baseball

Springer to take over Culleoka baseball as Hunter resigns

By Maurice Patton

Vince Springer has been named as interim baseball coach at Culleoka, replacing Chad Hunter after one pandemic-shortened season.

Culleoka athletics director Doug Sharp confirmed the coaching change Wednesday, citing scheduling issues on the part of Hunter, who was coaching on a non-faculty basis.

“He’s got a construction business, he’s having to work a lot of late hours,” Sharp said of Hunter, who played at Riverdale and briefly at Walters State. “After Christmas, he hasn’t had the time.

“He’s stepped aside, but he’s going to try to be there for games to help Vince. Vince has been doing the paperwork, all the administrative duties. With it being so close to the season, we needed to go ahead and do that, so that’s what (Culleoka principal Penny Love) and I decided to do.”

Hunter, the son-in-law of Culleoka assistant principal Mallory Hubbell, succeeded Adam Hendrix following the 2019 season. He guided the Warriors to an 0-3 start last spring before the COVID-19 global outbreak forced a stoppage of all athletic activities.

“The guys are excited to get on the field and start doing something,” said Springer, who served as Hunter’s assistant last year. “Monday (Feb. 15) is the first day we can officially practice. We’ve got a great bunch of guys; we only had one senior last year. We’ve got two seniors this year, Carson Lovell and Colton Tullis. We’ve got a lot of good talent. We’ll see what we can do.”

Clayton Harris, Culleoka’s middle school baseball coach, is also expected to help with the varsity, according to Sharp.

Culleoka is scheduled to open its 2021 season March 15 at Community, before hosting the Vikings on March 16.

Local trio commit to play college baseball

SM-Tn Sports

A trio of local high school baseball standouts announced recently their commitments to play at the next level. Max Fell, a junior at Summit, announced on Twitter his commitment to Middle Tennessee State, while Spring Hill senior Brantly Whitwell will play for Columbia State. Columbia Academy’s Max Ballard will play at Freed-Hardeman as well.

Mustang baseball earns national academic award

By Maurice Patton

Loretto’s high school program was one of four recognized statewide by the American Baseball Coaches Association for its academic performance over the 2019-20 school year.

The Mustangs received their third consecutive ABCA Team Academic Excellence Award this week, as one of 428 high school, junior college and college programs so honored.

“It’s a big honor for our guys,” former Loretto coach Gary Lamm said. “It shows they’re getting it done in the classroom as much as on the field. We’re very fortunate that their ability is showing up there as well.

“It’s important for these guys to be recognized for their work in the classroom. It’s good that they’re striving to be the best they can be.”

The annual honors go to programs coached by ABCA members that post a team grade-point average of 3.0 or better on a 4.0 scale for the entire academic year.

“In light of the challenges faced by so many programs across the country, we are humbled to be able to honor a record number of teams for their outstanding academic achievements,” ABCA executive director Craig Keilitz said.

“It is a testament to the leadership of our member coaches and the commitment of their student-athletes who persevered during an unprecedented academic year.”

Tennessee high school teams recognized along with Loretto were Cookeville, Warren County and Knoxville West.

A total of 428 programs received academic awards this year, including 143 high schools.

At the collegiate level, Cumberland University, Freed-Hardeman University, Lee University, Rhodes College and the University of the South are Tennessee programs that were also honored.

Maurice Patton is the editor for Southern Middle Tennessee Sports. E-mail: mopattonsports@gmail.com; Twitter: @mopatton_sports.

Raider baseball seniors honored despite pandemic

By Maurice Patton

For Paul Lamm and his 2020 Spring Hill baseball team, the prospect of a rained out Senior Night felt completely on brand.

After a spring season that was limited to just five games before its interruption and eventual cancellation because of the global coronavirus pandemic, the Raiders managed to get in four innings of a split-squad game – and more importantly, recognize their four graduates –Tuesday night before lightning preceded a downpour and cut festivities short.

Spring Hill 2020 graduates Brett Bell (left), Angel Montoya, Dylan Wilder and Elijah Williams were honored prior to a split-squad game Tuesday night. The Raiders had won four of five games before their season was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year. (Photo by Ric Beu)

“They were joking about it. It’s par for the 2020 course,” Lamm said after the White team, captained by Brett Bell and Angel Montoya, defeated Dylan Wilder and Elijah Williams’ Black team 3-0.

“We had a 20-percent chance (of rain) in the morning and 40 percent as the day went. I’m just glad we were able to get the senior stuff done – make it about them – and get some baseball in, to see that team compete again. It would have been great to play a complete game, but I’m glad we stopped when we did.”

Bell had an RBI single in the third inning, sparking a three-run rally, after Wilder started and struck out a pair in two innings.

“We kinda got shafted at the end of the year, with the virus and all that,” said Bell, who will continue his playing career at Jackson State Community College along with Wilder. “We never really knew if it was going to be our last game or not.

“Seeing all those people come out, knowing it was going to be our last game on the field, it was a great experience for us. It meant a lot.”

Montoya, who transferred from Culleoka to play his final two seasons at Spring Hill, has signed with Dyersburg State.

“I had a chance to play with these guys. They’re really good guys,” he said. “I love them. It’s been pretty good.”

Williams, meanwhile, will attend Columbia State and study emergency medical services.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Williams, who played both football and baseball at Spring Hill. “Hopefully I’ll take that somewhere further.”

For the circumstances, Lamm and the players were pleased with the turnout for Tuesday’s event.

“It couldn’t have been better,” he said. “The guys were excited. It was great to see those stands full. The umpires even said it was an incredible atmosphere. It was cool to have them come out.

“But I honestly hope that’s the last Senior Night we have to have in July.”

Maurice Patton is the editor for Southern Middle Tennessee Sports. He can be reached by e-mail at mopattonsports@gmail.com or on Twitter at @mopatton_sports.

Young Mathis tabbed to lead Mt. Pleasant program

By Maurice Patton

Still yet to graduate from Middle Tennessee State University, Kennedy Mathis is already showing up on the radar of prospective high school baseball coaches.

Officials at Mt. Pleasant took note, officially appointing the 23-year-old former Forrest and Columbia State pitcher this week to succeed three-time veteran Eddie Bassham at the helm of the Tiger program.

“Teaching and coaching is something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Mathis, who spent the last two years as an assistant at Independence while completing his requirements for his bachelor’s degree. “They reached out to some people they trust, and my name got to them. I was kinda blindsided when they reached out to me, but I’m excited to get going.”

Kennedy Mathis (center), named this week as baseball coach at Mt. Pleasant, is flanked by athletics director Eric Hughes (left) and principal Ryan Jackson. (Courtesy photo)

Mt. Pleasant athletics director Eric Hughes said a wide net was cast in the process of finding Bassham’s replacement.

“It’s one of those things – you’re trying to identify somebody enthusiastic, somebody that’s going to be a hard worker, somebody that’s going to build a program,” athletics director Eric Hughes said. “We were very diligent in our search. You have your connections, you talk to this coach, this coach recommended this person; that’s kinda how it came about.

“We talked to several people, and we feel like we have found the right person for the job, and we’re extremely excited about it. If you look at his background, his playing experience, being at Independence the last two years with a premier program and their coaches … We think this guy is a rising star in the coaching ranks. He had some opportunities to go to some other Class A schools as a pitching coach, and he wanted to stay there and continue to learn and develop under (Mike) McLaury at Independence. Now was the right time for him.”

Over three coaching stints, spanning from the mid-1970s to this past spring, Bassham won more than 600 games and led Mt. Pleasant to three Class A state runner-up finishes – in 1989, 1998 and 2004. Of late, though, the program has struggled. The Tigers’ last winning campaign came in 2012, when the team advanced to the Class A sectional round and finished 15-14.

“The hiring of Coach Mathis signifies our commitment to building a sustainable, top-tier baseball program that will focus on development of strong fundamentals while keeping our eyes on a future state title,” principal Ryan Jackson said. “Mt. Pleasant, Tenn., is a baseball city and we could not be more excited about the future of one of our favorite sports and the development of our student-athletes.”

A 2014 Forrest graduate, Mathis participated in a successful Rockets program that produced veteran Major League pitcher Mike Minor as well as one-time Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association Mr. Baseball Alex Brewer, both of whom played collegiately at Vanderbilt.

However, he’s aware that talent such as that – and that of 2020 Indy graduate Robert Hassell III, the eighth overall selection in last month’s MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres – is more the exception than the norm at the high school level.

“We had Mikie and we had Alex, but 90 percent of your guys aren’t that talented,” Mathis said. “But we worked hard, we competed, we had that mentality. Robert was a once-in-a-lifetime guy. But when you work hard and compete, you’re going to give yourself a great chance to win ballgames.

“Talking to people around Mt. Pleasant, and even folks not from there, this upcoming freshman class is going to be one of the better ones to come through in a long time.”

Age seems to be of little concern to either the AD or the coach.

“Your first job at any age is going to be trial and error,” Mathis said. “I think I can handle it. Watching how Coach McLaury manages the game, manages practice, manages parents, was a great experience for me. It gives me the confidence that I can take over as head coach and get it going.”

“We think he’s got a clear understanding of where the program is, the expectations and the direction we want to go in,” Hughes said. “We think he’s a guy that’s going to grind, build them into young men, lead them on and off the field. He’s going to be able to put in the work to get Tiger Baseball back to a level of excellence.”

Zion adds pair to coaching staff: The high school girls basketball and middle school football coaching positions at Zion Christian Academy have both been filled.

James Dickinson, a former assistant at both Columbia Academy and Columbia Central, will lead the Eagles’ middle school football program. Replacing Zion alumnus Daniel Pugh, who resigned earlier this summer to take a position at Wayne Christian School in Goldsboro, N.C., Dickinson will also serve as an assistant to Brad Lowery at the high school level.

Shaun Odom will become the third Lady Eagles coach in as many seasons, replacing Emory Ujano — who took over for Tommy Fox, the school’s previous athletics director, softball coach and boys basketball coach who also left for Wayne Christian this summer.

Odom has previously coached Murfreesboro-based nonscholastic girls basketball teams, notably Tennessee Team Pride.

The softball and boys basketball coaching positions left vacant by Fox’s departure remain so, although newly named AD Derek Boyd could eventually fill the latter role. Boyd previously spent 20 seasons as coach at Mt. Pleasant, his alma mater, before retiring at the end of the 2016-17 season, and since coached the Mt. Pleasant Middle School boys.

Maurice Patton is the editor for Southern Middle Tennessee Sports. He can be reached by e-mail at mopattonsports@gmail.com or on Twitter at @mopatton_sports.

Mustangs’ baseball reins passed to Curtis

By Maurice Patton

Spending parts of three seasons in the major leagues makes for a nice coaching resume, but getting the seal of approval from your predecessor never hurts, either.

With both in hand, Zac Curtis was nearly a shoo-in to take the helm of the Loretto baseball program.

Former Hendersonville and MTSU standout Zac Curtis, who logged time with four major league teams over six professional seasons, was announced Friday as Loretto’s new baseball coach. (Courtesy photo)

Curtis was announced Friday as the successor to Gary Lamm, who announced his retirement last month after 26 seasons – the most recent four of which each culminated in Murfreesboro, as the Mustangs won the 2017 Class A state championship and finished as state runner-up in 2018, losing a 1-0, 12-inning thriller to Columbia Academy.

“We already knew who he was,” Loretto principal Jennifer Littleton said of Curtis, who wrapped up a six-year professional career last summer with the Nashville Sounds and has since been living in nearby Leoma, with wife Chelsea and children Greyson and Brooks, while doing some substitute teaching at the school.

“When Coach Lamm told us he was interested, we spoke to other people, interviewed him and knew pretty quickly he was going to be the guy for the job. Having him interested was a blessing because of the caliber man he is. He wants to build ‘character’ young men. That’s more important than winning. Coach Lamm obviously did that within his program, and we feel like Zac will be able to continue that.”

The 27-year-old Curtis, a former standout at Hendersonville and at Volunteer State, was the Arizona Diamondbacks’ sixth-round selection in the 2014 Major League Draft out of Middle Tennessee State, where he’d gone 11-6 in two years – completing four of his 11 starts in his final season.

After making his major league debut in 2016 with the D-backs, he was with both the Phillies and Mariners in 2017, and the Rangers and Phillies the following season.

Last year, he went 1-1 with an 8.90 earned run average over 22 appearances out of the bullpen with the Sounds before his July release.

“At first, it wasn’t my thought process to (retire),” said Curtis, whose only opportunities were in independent ball last summer. “I didn’t hear anything, didn’t hear anything. I started to sub. Talking to Coach Lamm, I was telling him ‘if something doesn’t work out, I’d like to talk to you about possibly coaching’.

“When spring training started and I didn’t have any calls, I decided it was time to move into the next phase of my life – make it be known I’d like to coach here, work for Coach Lamm and jump in whenever he decided to retire.”

That decision came quicker than many anticipated.

“When he retired, I think it shocked a lot of people,” Curtis said. “The first thing he said to me was ‘I’m going to endorse you for the next coach’. That meant a lot to me.”

As it stands, Lamm will be the lone departure from the staff, as assistants Toby Dunn and fellow ex-MLB pitcher David Weathers are both expected to continue in their roles.

“I told them, ‘I really need you guys. I understand if you’ve got other obligations’,” Curtis said. “They were both kind enough to stick around and help me with this. I’m trying to add one more coach. I think we’ll have a very good staff with a lot of experience.”

Lamm, who posted 438 of his 525 career victories at the south Lawrence County school, expects the Mustangs to be in good hands going forward.

“He’s the right person for the job,” Lamm said. “I look forward to him, to seeing what he can do with it. I met him three or four years ago, and he was giving lessons down here. When he said he wanted to get into high school baseball, I knew in the back of my mind, this would be a great transition – not that I have any say-so, but I felt he’d be a good fit.

“He’s energized, the kids know him, he’s substituted at our school. He’s an easy choice, with all he’s gone through. He’s a very likeable guy, got a great personality. He’s going to be a great fit for Loretto High School.”

Maurice Patton is the editor for Southern Middle Tennessee Sports. He can be reached by e-mail at mopattonsports@gmail.com or on Twitter at @mopatton_sports.