Warriors armed with high hopes,  sufficient talent

By Marvin Birchfield


   The Happy Valley Warriors have been looking forward to baseball season, as experience with a little bit of youth mixed in at the mound could be the key to their success with the hopes of a possible conference title.
   "We have some great players back, and we think it's our time to do well this year. We have pitching that I feel like can win everyday," said Happy Valley coach Greg Hyder.
   Eyes are focused on seniors Britton Brummitt and Michael Holmes, who have been solid for the Warriors throughout their four years, but the depth of the other young pitchers is also an asset to their bullpen.
   "Ryan Toney was a freshman last year, and he threw six games for us, so he'll probably be our number two or three guy," said Hyder.
   Another young prospect is the freshman left-hander Todd Caldwell, who Hyder says will be a great player and has plenty of potential.
   "We've got a little freshman pitcher, Todd Caldwell, who is going to be a heck of pitcher for us that will probably be number four," said Hyder.
   There talent at the mound is very steady, so the expectations for this season are at an all-time high."
   "All of our guys can throw and get people out, so we feel pretty good about it, but we still have make plays and be able to score runs," said Hyder.
   In the Warriors' season debut against Unaka, they had little trouble of ringing up the scoreboard, as they disposed of the Rangers by a final of 16-5.
   "We have good pitching and a lot of sticks," Hyder said. "Cody Cannon did a great job in hitting the ball, but we didn't play defense that well and had some base running mistakes."
   Cannon has developed the reputation of being a hard hitter, and with the senior leadership, he can make a tremendous impact on their season.
   "Cannon is huge, for he hit .400 for us last year and was all-state, so we're expecting him to have a good year, and he works hard and is a heck of a catcher," said Hyder.
   Tim Whaley will be another offensive spark for the Warriors besides Cannon, and in his first outing against Unaka he showed his display of strength by knocking a shot over the fence.
   "We're expecting a lot of things out of Whaley, and I think he is going to show that he can do it," said Hyder.
   It was debatable whether or not senior outfielder Lamar Rollins would be able to compete this season, due to an injury suffered in the football season.
   Lamar has been rehabilitating from the hurt shoulder, and once he is released by his physician, he'll make a difference for the Warrior defensive.
   "It's still is going to take a little time and the doctor hasn't released him yet, but we're hoping they will soon. He's a big key to our ballclub, because confidence wise he's a great leader," said Hyder.
   "The only weak spot with Happy Valley might be its youth and inexperience, but they do posses some veteran leadership, which will make it easier in battling their way to the top spot.
   "We're young right now," Hyder said. "We have sophomores and freshmen out on the field, but we have senior leadership in areas we need to."
   The one thing the youngsters do bring to the plate is their explosiveness of speed on the bases.
   "Our young kids have some good speed, and freshman Ryan Garland can run like a deer," said Hyder.
   Garland is filling in for Rollins in the outfield until he can come back, and Hyder says it's nice to have a that kind of talent to step up and make plays.
   Not all of the Warriors have great speed, but there are several guys on this team that can motor their way around bases.
   "We've got some big and slow ones, but when Rollins is in the line-up he can run and so can Cody Whitlock," said Hyder.
   Usually when it comes to baseball in the Watauga Conference, the one team that has stood out over the years has been Unicoi County.
   With several state titles in the past 20 seasons, the Blue Devils are always the team everyone is gunning after.
   Last season their mystique was tarnished by Elizabethton with a couple of losses, which has given other area teams some confidence in their attempt to dethrone the perennial powerhouse.
   "Elizabethton gained some confidence last year, and broke the mold for everybody else," Hyder said. "Erwin is always a solid team, and Elizabethton can do some stuff, for they've got some solid pitching."
   Happy Valley probably has its best shot this season in knocking off the Blue Devils along with the Cyclones, but it's definitely going to be a challenge that will be faced with.
   Hyder says Sullivan North and Central are two other teams that are always tough, so they must be able to compete with those schools in order to achieve their success.
   "I was a little worried on how we were going to play against Unaka in our opening day. It's a big rivalry, and I was just glad to get it over with," said Hyder.