Last season, Bearden’s baseball team had a successful campaign, including a thrilling road victory at Farragut and a strong second place finish in an incredibly talented district behind Hardin Valley.
The Bulldogs will have another tough road ahead of them this season, but this time it may be even more challenging than ever.
“I grew up in this area and graduated from Morristown East in 1996, and I’ve seen talent,” Bearden Coach John Rice said. “[In the past] there have been years where Farragut is so much better than everybody else and everyone else is just about okay.”
Coach Rice described this year as being “atypical” due to an abundance of talent across the region.
Bearden opened up its season with a 7-2 district win over star pitcher and UT commit Alex Curl from Maryville on Monday. The Bulldogs were supposed to play Farragut on Wednesday, where they could have faced yet another SEC caliber pitcher – Patrick Raby who has signed with Vanderbilt. The game was postponed to April 19 due to the field being saturated from this week’s rain.
Hardin Valley also has loads of talent this season with UT commitments Will Neely and Tyler Thompson as well as Matt Turner who is going to ETSU.
The unbelievable part is that these are just some of the names in Bearden’s district; many other teams and players throughout East Tennessee are making big headlines as well.
“We are in a really good baseball time for East Tennessee and particularly for our area,” Coach Rice said. “It is something else, and there are a lot of good players out there.
“It’s amazing to sit back and realize this is really where we are now, and it is good for our kids and our community to get to watch high caliber baseball.”
Bearden has also played its role in developing next level baseball talent. From Lane Thomas getting drafted in the fifth round of the MLB Draft last season, to Derek Lance at UT and Trey York at ETSU, Bearden has been churning out quality players for years.
As for this year, with all the big names floating around, Coach Rice has instilled focus into his players.
“We just have to do our own part and contribute the way we know how to contribute,” sophomore David Beam said. “We are going to play a lot of good players, and we just have to treat them like any other.”
Added junior Bryson Ford: “I just don’t really think who they are and just play baseball.”
Even though Bearden and Hardin Valley finished above Farragut in district standings last season, it was the Admirals claimed another state title. This just shows another angle to how complex and potent East Tennessee baseball has become, but Bearden knows it can find a strong foothold among all worthy competitors.
“On paper sometimes it may look challenging, but you just do your job and hit the ball, catch the ball, and throw the ball,” Coach Rice said. “We have a lot of talented guys and we know we have our work cut out for us.
“We did last year too, and we did pretty well; I’m excited to see what we do again.”