By Trey Williams
Daniel Boone’s baseball team is a tall task these days, and Cade Elliott is the primary reason.
A 6-foot-6, 205-pound left-handed junior, Elliott has already committed to the University of Tennessee. He’s thrown as hard as 90 mph and he’s batting around .500 after hitting an even .400 as a sophomore.
And veteran Boone coach Rob Hoover will quickly tell you that Elliott’s an even better person than player.
“He is the type of kid maturity wise – he understands where baseball sits in his life,” Hoover said. “It’s important to him, but it’s not all he has. And that, to me as a coach – that’s the most proud I can be of him. When we’re out here working, it’s important but it’s not everything.
“So foundationally, he’s grounded. And when good things happen he knows who to give credit to. And when he struggles he knows it’s not the worst thing in the world.”
Elliott exemplified Hoover’s description last week during a friendly visit with Tennessee High standouts Davis Hall and Gavin Cross immediately after he suffered the loss despite allowing only two hits in Boone’s 1-0 setback in Bristol. It was a hard-luck loss at hitter-friendly Todd Houston Field. Elliott wouldn’t have allowed the run if center fielder Brody Goodman’s throw had not taken a bad hop in front of the plate.
“Cade threw an unbelievable ballgame,” Tennessee High coach Preston Roberts said. “He is a legit pitcher. We’re a pretty good hitting team and he just stymied us the whole night.”
Elliott beat Science Hill in Gray in his first start of the season. He pitched six shutout innings and delivered what proved to be the game-winning hit with a two-run double in a three-run third as Boone won for the first time in the series past 17 games.
“Obviously, they’d beat us what, 16 times in a row or something like that,” Elliott said. “They’ve been a team I looked up to. They’ve had great coaching. They’ve had great players.
“They’ve always been the team that was untouchable and this year I get my first start for this year and we beat them. That was pretty incredible for me.”
Elbow surgery limited Elliott to batting his freshman year. Later that summer, he thew 82 mph. He said his velocity maxed at 88 against Cherokee his sophomore season and he reached 90 mph last summer.
That’s why Tennessee, Duke and East Tennessee State came calling. Elliott knew he wanted to be a Volunteer after watching UT play Auburn his freshman season, and he said letting the other programs know has thankfully quieted the recruiting process.
“Once I committed to UT,” Elliott said, “I called the other schools and said, ‘Thank you very much, but Tennessee’s the place for me.’ And after that I haven’t really gotten anything too much, and that’s been kind of nice. I know UT has been my dream school and I’m gonna love playing there when I get there.
“My freshman year we played a tournament at Oak Ridge and before they were even talking to me I got to watch them. So it was pretty cool to see how that went from spring of that year and then summer they ended up offering me. It was pretty awesome.”
Elliott’s sky-high batting average has come despite getting pitched carefully.
“We always notice if bases are open when he’s at the plate,” Roberts said. “He’s a really, really good high school hitter. He hits to all fields. He has power. He has speed. He’s a dangerous kid. … He’s gonna hit our pitch or take his base.”
Elliott’s father Josh played football and baseball at Boone and pitched at Centre College.
“He’s been a great dad to me,” Elliott said. “He’s throwing to me every day that I want, playing catch.”
It’s enhanced fundamentals, according to Hoover.
“His dad is a year older than me,” Hoover said. “He was a good pitcher, for sure. He’s been very active. In the summer he’s coached him and he’s coached him a lot growing up. Mechanically, he’s really sound. He knows how to play the game.
“What separates Cade from a lot of guys is just the instincts he plays with – running the bases, angles that you take in the outfield. A lot of things that you have a hard time teaching high school kids, he’s got that instinctively because of his parents, obviously, and just playing the game the right way for a long time.”
Elliott is passionate about baseball, especially Boone baseball.
“Coach Dustin Ford was one of my favorite players I ever watched,” Elliott said. “They called him Duck. I loved watching him and always cheered for him. I remember Kevin Connell was good. Josh Bacon. I grew up watching those guys and I loved it. I always looked up to Boone players and it’s crazy that, hopefully, people are looking up to me now.”
Elliott and company would seem to have as good a chance as any team in the District 1-AAA tournament, which begins next week at Todd Houston Field. Boone finished 7-5 in the regular season in the Big Seven Conference. Four of those losses came by a combined total of five runs.
“This is the craziest conference I’ve seen in my three years,” Elliott said. “It feels like about anybody can beat anybody.”
Certainly, Boone can best any team, as evidenced by its wins against Science Hill, Tennessee High and Dobyns-Bennett.
“Before the season I kind of knew this team was special,” Elliott said. “We’ve got a good chance. We’ve got a whole lot of talent. We definitely have a chance in the postseason. I think we kind of know that, too.
“We just have to come out and play every single game with intensity. If we ended up playing our best baseball, then I think we can go pretty far.”