Elizabethton emphasizes defense for new season
  

By Ivan Sanders

STAR CORRESPONDENT
isanders@starhq.com

   Even though it takes runs to win ballgames, the Cyclones will be looking to use a tenacious defense to keep their opponents off the scoreboard.
   The Cyclones will be looking to a senior laden team to make 2002 a breakout year for the program. Steve McKinney, entering his third year as head coach, hopes that a change in conferences will also work in his team's favor.
   "We're going to be opening with Unicoi County who has always been the top dog in this conference," said McKinney. " Our goal this year is to give all the teams we play a run for their money."
   For the Cyclones to be successful, they are needing someone to step to the top step of the dugout and lead the team by example.
   Said McKinney: "I am hoping that B.J. Miller and Michael Porter can bring a winning attitude to this team after the success they have experienced on the basketball court this year. Both are injured right now, but hopefully we can get them in the lineup soon.
   "We will also look to Josh Irick to provide this team with leadership from behind the plate and at the plate."
   McKinney felt like the one weakness his team has is the simple fact they haven't learned how to win.
   "We have played scared in the past," stated McKinney. "We need to develop confidence in winning tight games and not folding at the first sight of the other team rallying. The kids need to believe in themselves."
   The Cyclones will have one of the toughest middle defensive units in the conference this year. Irick will be handling the Cyclone hurlers behind the plate.
   Shortstop duties will be handled by Miller, with two new incoming players showing a lot of promise in Mitchell Blevins and Troop Harris.
   Second base duties will be in good hands as senior Jeremy Hodge, who played centerfield last year, brings a tough glove and quickness to the position. Center field will also be an important part of the picture as for now sophomore Adam Greenlee has assumed that role.
   Opposing batters will have to come ready to face a variety of pitching styles from the Cyclones. Junior Joseph Vines will bring some heat to the hill this year as well as some wicked off-speed pitches. Wes Greer, a junior, will also come with a ample plate full of pitches that will likely have the opposing batters swinging out of their shoes.
   Others that will be seeing some time from the hill include promising sophomore Zach Stipe; seniors Daniel Range, Justin Williams, and Joseph Taylor; and junior Chris Hurt. McKinney has been pleased with his hurlers in early scrimmages as all have performed admirably.
   The outfield will be patrolled by a capable group of glovesmen who possess the arm strength to cut down any runners trying to stretch out a hit. Range will be roaming left field, Greenlee in center, and Porter, who nabbed team defensive player awards last year, in right.
   Nathan Bishop is one of several promising freshman that could garner some playing time. Blevins, Harris, and Trevor Hyder are also players that can be impact players according to McKinney.
   "Trevor Hyder is probably one of the most fundamentally sound players we have," stated McKinney.
   "He throws the ball well, fields grounders with ease, and just thinks baseball when he's on the field."
   Coach McKinney sees a very tough conference taking shape at these early stages.
   "I would say that Happy Valley is going to be the studs this year," said McKinney. " They have all the tools to be a strong team including great baseball fundamentals, base-running ability, and strong pitching."
   McKinney is quick to point out that Unicoi County can never be counted out when it comes to baseball. He even referred to the school as being "Baseball University."
   North and Central will also be competing for top honors in the conference.
   There is one thing for sure when it comes to the EHS program this year - the coaching staff brings a truckload of baseball knowledge to the table.
   With instruction being provided by assistant coaches Mike Hooks and Johnny Burleson at the varsity level, as well as Chris Hambrick and Ryan Witten at the
   Freshman level, knowledge of the game will be plentiful and abundant.
   "We feel like we can play with anyone," said McKinney. "If we can play well and have a little luck, we'll be right up there in the hunt for a conference title." Elizabethton emphasizes
   defense for new season
  
By Ivan Sanders
   STAR CORRESPONDENT
   isanders@starhq.com
   Even though it takes runs to win ballgames, the Cyclones will be looking to use a tenacious defense to keep their opponents off the scoreboard.
   The Cyclones will be looking to a senior laden team to make 2002 a breakout year for the program. Steve McKinney, entering his third year as head coach, hopes that a change in conferences will also work in his team's favor.
   "We're going to be opening with Unicoi County who has always been the top dog in this conference," said McKinney. " Our goal this year is to give all the teams we play a run for their money."
   For the Cyclones to be successful, they are needing someone to step to the top step of the dugout and lead the team by example.
   Said McKinney: "I am hoping that B.J. Miller and Michael Porter can bring a winning attitude to this team after the success they have experienced on the basketball court this year. Both are injured right now, but hopefully we can get them in the lineup soon.
   "We will also look to Josh Irick to provide this team with leadership from behind the plate and at the plate."
   McKinney felt like the one weakness his team has is the simple fact they haven't learned how to win.
   "We have played scared in the past," stated McKinney. "We need to develop confidence in winning tight games and not folding at the first sight of the other team rallying. The kids need to believe in themselves."
   The Cyclones will have one of the toughest middle defensive units in the conference this year. Irick will be handling the Cyclone hurlers behind the plate.
   Shortstop duties will be handled by Miller, with two new incoming players showing a lot of promise in Mitchell Blevins and Troop Harris.
   Second base duties will be in good hands as senior Jeremy Hodge, who played centerfield last year, brings a tough glove and quickness to the position. Center field will also be an important part of the picture as for now sophomore Adam Greenlee has assumed that role.
   Opposing batters will have to come ready to face a variety of pitching styles from the Cyclones. Junior Joseph Vines will bring some heat to the hill this year as well as some wicked off-speed pitches. Wes Greer, a junior, will also come with a ample plate full of pitches that will likely have the opposing batters swinging out of their shoes.
   Others that will be seeing some time from the hill include promising sophomore Zach Stipe; seniors Daniel Range, Justin Williams, and Joseph Taylor; and junior Chris Hurt. McKinney has been pleased with his hurlers in early scrimmages as all have performed admirably.
   The outfield will be patrolled by a capable group of glovesmen who possess the arm strength to cut down any runners trying to stretch out a hit. Range will be roaming left field, Greenlee in center, and Porter, who nabbed team defensive player awards last year, in right.
   Nathan Bishop is one of several promising freshman that could garner some playing time. Blevins, Harris, and Trevor Hyder are also players that can be impact players according to McKinney.
   "Trevor Hyder is probably one of the most fundamentally sound players we have," stated McKinney.
   "He throws the ball well, fields grounders with ease, and just thinks baseball when he's on the field."
   Coach McKinney sees a very tough conference taking shape at these early stages.
   "I would say that Happy Valley is going to be the studs this year," said McKinney. " They have all the tools to be a strong team including great baseball fundamentals, base-running ability, and strong pitching."
   McKinney is quick to point out that Unicoi County can never be counted out when it comes to baseball. He even referred to the school as being "Baseball University."
   North and Central will also be competing for top honors in the conference.
   There is one thing for sure when it comes to the EHS program this year - the coaching staff brings a truckload of baseball knowledge to the table.
   With instruction being provided by assistant coaches Mike Hooks and Johnny Burleson at the varsity level, as well as Chris Hambrick and Ryan Witten at the
   Freshman level, knowledge of the game will be plentiful and abundant.
   "We feel like we can play with anyone," said McKinney. "If we can play well and have a little luck, we'll be right up there in the hunt for a conference title."