By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Almost a decade ago Brad Smith took over the Tipton-Rosemark Academy Rebel Baseball program and set the bar high.
Every season Smith expects his team to reach Murfreesboro and play in the State Tournament. In his nine seasons, the Rebels have made three trips to the final baseball tournament of the year finishing runner up twice.
“If we get there this year, it’s going to be with solid pitching and solid defense,” Smith noted. “Some timely hitting, and we have to put pressure on the other team’s defense by running the bases. We’re going to be young in baseball years as for experience at the varsity level.
“Our season is going to come down to our pitchers,” he added. “We’re going to be as successful as our young arms will be. We will be as successful as quick as they become successful.”
The 2016 Rebel pitching staff will be led by sophomore Corey Mitson. Some around the TRA program said Mitson has the ability to be a Connor Alexander or David Owen type of talent. Both of those aces signed Division I scholarship with Owen being drafted by the San Francisco Giants. Another sophomore arm in the rotation will be Tyler Flynn. Smith is getting the young talent to focus on pounding the zone to increase his strikeouts and shorten up the count.
Senior Houston Hall brings experience and a 6’4 frame to the mound this season. Hall is one of six seniors including Logan Rose, Zack James, Brandon Winfield, Spencer Belcher and Darien Weakley.
“This group needs to give leadership,” Smith said. “Our junior class is small with only 2 kids. Our sophomore class has only 5 kids and they’re very talented. Our senior class has some talent and they are just good leaders and solid baseball players. They work extremely hard.”
James will be in the leadoff spot and play second base. Winfield will likely line up next to James in the infield at shortstop.
Hall will be featured in right field and bat near the top of the lineup. Rose will be a right-hand bat and will see some time in the outfield. And Weakley will be a pitcher and outfielder for the Rebels in 2016.
Junior Wesley Deatherage will be another right-hander in the rotation for TRA.
Other underclassmen expected to contribute will be Jared LaFosse, Parker Wells and sophomore catcher Alex Langford. Smith said all the pieces must fall into the right place for the 2016 Rebels to reach their ultimate goal. To get out of the West Region will be a tough task.
“USJ, they’re loaded,” Smith noted. “They have at least six that I’ve heard of who are seniors and have signed to play at the next level. They’re just good. St. George’s who is the State champion from a year ago. They have lost a couple of quality players but they still have a lot of quality players I’ve enjoyed watching the last couple of years.
“You also have Harding,” he concluded. “They have some good arms and they are well-coached team. ECS came in third last year at the tournament. They have a lot of young players with a good junior group. And the team a lot of people are not talking about is FACS. They have young talent over there with a new coach. They’re always scary with the young arms they have other there.”