Blazers hoping to kick down door of Region tournament

By Trey Williams

If Daniel Boone keeps knocking on the door, Trailblazers baseball coach Rob Hoover can only assume, the baseball gods will eventually answer it.

Five straight seasons have ended with the ‘Blazers one victory shy of the regional tournament. Last year’s season-ending loss might’ve been the toughest to digest. Science Hill’s Reece Westmoreland hit a walk-off home run with two outs in the seventh.

“We’ve been in that game five years in a row that either takes you to the regional or ends your season,” Hoover said. “To finish third five years in a row – it’s good on the one hand that we’re close, we’re almost there. But it’s frustrating that we can’t get over that hump yet. So we’ll keep working at it.”

Halfway through the conference schedule, Boone appears to have another shot at a regional run. The ‘Blazers (3-3, 10-5) are led by junior shortstop Eric Rigsby and senior pitcher-second baseman Colt Campbell, who got the win on the mound, homered and delivered the game-winning double in Boone’s 7-5 win at Tennessee High on Monday.

Colt’s hitting around .450, second on the team in RBIs and 3-1 on the mound with an ERA under 3.00.

“Colt’s senior year so far is one of the better senior years I’ve seen in a while,” Hoover said. “He’s doing it all for us – hitting, pitching. He needs to keep playing well for us. Kind of the way he goes is the way we’re gonna go.”

Rigsby, already on a number of college’s radar, began the season hitting a team-leading .488 (20-for-41) with a team-high 14 RBIs in 13 games.

“He has some schools interested,” Hoover said. “He’s got a chance to (get some Division I offers). He needs to have a good summer. He plays for some really good travel teams.”

Rigsby and Campbell are two Hoover’s five returning starters.

Senior outfielder-pitcher Jake Chandler hit .296 last season with nine doubles and 21 RBIs. Logan Rivers, who hit a grand slam on Monday against Tennessee High, is an experienced catcher. And Mitch Peters, who hits in the middle of the order is an experienced first baseman.

Hoover’s other top arms include Ian Weir and Kade Ferguson, the latter of whom has started the season with a 3-0 record.

“Kade Ferguson has been swinging the bat really well and playing pretty good defense at third base,” Hoover said. “Mitch Peters has been hitting the ball pretty well. And Eric Rigsby, of course, has been solid all year long.”

Hoover’s high on freshman right fielder Cade Elliott, who batted second and started in right field on Monday in Bristol. “He’s a talented freshman,” Hoover said.

Elliott is a left-handed batter, as are Ferguson and designated hitter Zach Taylor (.438 batting average). Ferguson was hitting .486 (18-for-37) with seven doubles through his first 13 games.

Outfielder Jay Strouth is dependable defensively.

Hoover likes the collective competitiveness of this team. Boone played sloppily in a season-opening 9-1 loss to Tennessee High in Gray on March 13. Four weeks later, the Trailbazers played didn’t commit an error in a 7-5 win at Tennessee High.

Of course, advancing to that coveted regional tournament won’t come easily.

“It’s a really, really good league from top to bottom this year,” Hoover said. “Everybody’s got really good quality pitching. That kind of separates us this year from years past.”


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