Baseball Lions Return Intact In Quest For State Return Trip

Sunday, March 10, 2013 - by David Jenkins

Few teams have ever come back from so far down to reach the TSSAA baseball tournament as the Red Bank Lions came last year. A 14-game losing streak to begin the season left them far below the radar. But inexplicably, coach Trey Hicks' club fought through the district and regional tournaments to reach the state even with a losing record.

Two one-run losses in the state ended the Cinderalla story. Now it's a new year and the comparisons to, say, Godzilla or the Incredible Hulk would be preferred to that tired fairy tale.

The Lions lose only one player from last year's mix and are built around a group of graybeard seniors, four of whom have played together since the age of 5.

"We have the mentality that, sure, we got there, but we have no guarantees that we can make it back," said Hicks, beginning his third season as head coach. "We're not satisfied."

Hicks said last year's radical turnaround was based around merely having his players rediscovering how to have fun again. That hasn't been an issue with this year's, group, who are rallying around injured all-star Tyler Phillips, dealing both with his absence and eventual return in April. The Lions durable catcher last year, Phillips is six months removed from football season-ending knee surgery, but expecting medical clearance to come at the end of the month.

But Phillips cannot catch, so the Lions have turned to another senior who was his backup last year, Gage Winton, knows how to handle the position and early reports rate him as all-star qualifiy as well. Phillips will be designated hitter when he's cleared.

"Anything to get a .400 average in the lineup," Hicks said. "But in the long run, we won't be relying on 1-2 guys to carry us. We're looking for everyone to contribute."

Tops among the other seniors the Lions are bringing back this year is pitcher/outfielder Hagan Wilkey, who will be counted on more heavily on the mound.

"He threw mostly relief last year, but he got us some big wins in the playoffs," Hicks said. "He and junior Blake Winstead will be our main pitchers. We'll probably give a chance to some of our eight freshman to earn a spot. We need freshmen, but you need to know who you can count on."

The remaining seniors in Red Bank's dugout this season include Ryder Pierce, a versatile second-generation Lion. He'll be used anywhere there's a need. Pitcher-outfielder Corbin Mitchell rounds out this important six-man 12th grade contingent.

Two pitching concerns may cause Hicks to lose some sleep in the early going. Not only are the Lions still in need of a closer, there's no one on hand to fill the gap of a left-handed starter.

The LIons will get a quick taste of how ready they are. Beginning Monday, a two-day, home-and-home return to district play will find Tyner Academy as their first true measuring stick. The Rams are being guided by new head coach Ron Flowers, one of a half-dozen new faces leading local programs.

Other District 6-AA district home and home contests Monday include East RIdge meeting East Hamilton at Chattanooga State and Hixson at Central. Once again this year, 6-AA will hold all of its district games in home-and-home dates on Mondays and Tuesdays.

carty43@netzero.net


PHOTOS: Baylor Shades Silverdale In Softball, 4-2

Boyd-Buchanan Soccer Stays Unbeaten With Win Over McCallie

The atmosphere on and around the Boyd-Buchanan soccer field Tuesday night resembled that of a high-stakes postseason match, but neither titles nor elimination were on the line in the Buccaneers’ non-conference, regular-season finale against McCallie. What the Bucs were playing for, however, was an opportunity to finish an unbeaten regular season, a feat they accomplished ... (click for more)

Kevin Muhammad Says City Programs Failing; More Attention And Funding Needed For Impoverished Inner City Youths

Nation of Islam leader Kevin Muhammad told a packed house at City Council on Tuesday night that a large segment of Chattanooga is impoverished, while parts of the city are enjoying a Renaissance. Given 20 minutes for a "State of the People" address, he said many city programs are failing, including the Violence Reduction Initiative and a Youth and Family Services reading program. ... (click for more)

County Commission Told To Fully Fund County Schools Improvement Request Would Take 28 1/2-Cent Property Tax Increase; 78 School Personnel Would Be Added

County Mayor Jim Coppinger told members of the County Commission at a budget workshop on Tuesday that it would take a 28 1/2-cent property tax increase to fully fund the county school budget request. The county schools are asking for $24,218,919 in new money for a focus on workforce readiness, literacy and low-performing schools. County Mayor Coppinger did not say whether ... (click for more)

Marvelous News From Central High School

To Roy Exum:     With all the recent news of major dysfunctions within our educational system, I thought I might alert you to something better. About a year ago you ventured up Highway 58 to Central High School to represent your late grandfather, Roy McDonald, as he was honored as a Distinguished Alumnus during the annual Senior Day festivities. I sort of expected ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The DA’s Cold-Case Quest

It is clearly a job nobody can do for over an hour or two, but Neal Pinkston, working in hand with precise professionals from the county’s auditing department, is intent on doing the right thing. As I watched a revolving team of four people at a time open and study envelopes of autopsy photographs on Tuesday, the scene would have made a fascinating television documentary. But ... (click for more)