Will Craig kept throwing bullets from the mound and mashing at the plate, and Science Hill once again had the area’s top baseball player.
The Hilltoppers produced their seventh straight Super 22 player of the year award as Craig won for the second straight season on the 26th annual Johnson City Press team.
The senior third baseman-pitcher became just the second player in the history of the team to repeat as player of the year. Daniel Norris did it from 2009-11. Previous Science Hill winners in the streak were Ben McKinney (2008) and Paul Hoilman (2007).
Joining Craig on the first team was the leadoff hitter in the honorary batting order, Dobyns-Bennett shortstop Chris Cook. Craig’s teammate, Reed Hayes, is in the No. 2 spot in the order.
Hitting in the No. 3 spot was Craig, followed in the clean-up spot by Sullivan East first baseman Ryan Flick.
Daniel Boone right fielder Taylor Smith earned the No. 5 spot in the order, and he was followed by Dobyns-Bennett third baseman Austin Dayton and Unicoi County outfielder Ethan Rice.
North Greene second baseman Tyler Bailey and Elizabethton catcher Thomas Miller hold down the bottom spots in the order.
The pitching rotation was anchored by Craig while D-B’s Logan Gentry, Unicoi County’s Jonathan Davis, and Elizabethton’s Dylan Richardson rounded out the starting rotation. University High’s Connor Bartow was selected as the setup man while Daniel Boone’s Daniel Cox was picked as the closer.
Elizabethton head coach Joe Nix locked up coach of the year honors, leading the Cyclones to their first state tournament berth in 55 years.
On the second team, Elizabethton earned a pair of spots with left fielder Austin Smith and right fielder Quincy Jackson. The center field selection went to Sullivan South’s Preston Douglas.
The Rebels also had the catcher with Matt Williams getting that nod. Troy Hall was the pick at first base.
Science Hill’s Kyle Wilson got the edge at shortstop, bumping Johnson County’s Judd Hammons to second base. Happy Valley got a spot with Colton Haun manning third base.
Craig was a beast at the plate despite rarely getting anything meaty to satisfy his appetite for line drives and homers. His batting average was an other-worldly .560, and he also ripped nine homers and drove in 43 runs.
On the mound, Craig went 6-1 and helped the Hilltoppers reach the regional tournament. He finished with an ERA of 1.81 and had 76 strikeouts in 54 innings of work.
Cook was a run-scoring machine for the Indians as they made it to the Class AAA state tournament. He scored 52 times while belting out a .442 batting average. He also drove in 28 runs and had 15 doubles and four triples.
Hayes, a senior, was a big part of Science Hill’s 30-win season. He batted .379 with four homers and 45 RBIs. On the mound, Hayes was 5-1 with an ERA of 2.31.
Flick was the area’s top power hitter, finishing the season with 15 homers. The senior first baseman also drove in 47 runs and batted .389.
Daniel Boone got within a sniff of the region tournament, and Smith was a key reason. The senior batted .398 with 10 homers and 52 runs batted in.
For Dobyns-Bennett it was a season to remember as the Indians battled their way to the state tournament for the first time since 1996. Dayton was a big part of it with eight homers, 51 RBIs, a .411 batting average, eight doubles and 40 runs scored.
Rice helped Unicoi County reach the regional tournament, collecting a .431 batting average despite an elbow issue that will require surgery this summer. The senior center fielder added seven homers and 28 RBIs, and was also a threat on the base paths with 11 steals.
North Greene got back to the Class A sectional round, but couldn’t get over the hump this time despite the standout efforts of Tyler Bailey. At the plate, the junior hit .494 with three homers and 37 RBIs.
On the mound, Bailey had some control issues but still finished with a record of 5-2 and an ERA of 1.93.
Miller was arguably the area’s best catcher. The Middle Tennessee State University signee also batted .360 with a homer and 31 RBIs.
Gentry was a rock at the head of the Indians’ rotation. The junior was 9-0 heading into the state tournament before suffering his only loss of the season against Murfreesboro Riverdale. He finished with an ERA of .103 and had 72 strikeouts in 70 1/3 innings. At the plate he batted .368 with five homers and eight doubles.
Davis was locked in all season for the Blue Devils. The senior left-hander finished with a record of 8-2, suffering a couple of hard-luck losses, and his ERA was a miniscule 0.52 and he struck out 97 batters in just 65 innings.
As for Richardson, he pitched well throughout the season — including a tough effort to beat Christian Academy of Knoxville in the sectional round. He finished with a record of 9-2 and an ERA of 2.71. He struck out 52 batters in 70 innings.
Bartow mixed it up well throughout the season for the Junior Bucs, and led his team to eight wins on the mound. He had an ERA of 2.46 and struck out 57 batters with just 16 walks.
Cox stood strong against the tough hitters in the Big Eight Conference, and finished with a record of 5-3 and an ERA of 1.56. He struck out 66 in 49 innings.
As for the second team, Williams, a senior, had nine homers and 34 RBIs while Hall, a sophomore, posted a batting average of .506 with 12 doubles and 28 RBIs.
Hammons batted just under .500 for the Longhorns. The senior was also a top defensive player at shortstop.
A senior, Wilson batted .362 with 19 RBIs while also sparking Science Hill’s offense with 16 stole bases.
Haun was solid in the field for the Warriors, and hit .419 at the plate. He also stole nine bases.
Smith was good on the mound (8-2, 2.62) and also totaled 32 RBIs with an average of .325 at the plate.
Douglas batted a robust .439 while hitting three homers and driving in 34 runs to go along with 14 doubles.
Jackson was a tough out at the top of the Cyclones’ lineup, hitting .415 with 26 RBIs and 18 stolen bases.