“Grit: It’s the resilience to fight back when a game gets tough. It’s the will to push beyond one’s current physical capacities on the field. It’s what disciplines the elite player to hit the hay early while others succumb to late-night distractions. And most of all, it’s what keeps these players from giving up in the long haul – even after injuries, setbacks, and adversity. Day after day, week after week, year after year, these athletes continue to show up,” from Angela Duckworth.


Love this definition and portrayal of the word grit. We always hear stories of the player who has a lot of grit, or the player who is hard-nosed. The way to sum it up is exactly like the end of the quote says; “it’s what keeps the players from giving up,” said CEO of Character Lab Duckworth


This mindset is built for mental toughness. Why is that so important you ask? Well if we are playing in a high-pressure situation, those are the guys we want. The guys that are not going to back down from anybody. The no-excuses type, the ones that are disciplined enough to stay the course. It’s a mindset that comes from within because when the going gets tough you only have two options: 


1.) Give-in


2.) Fight Back


That’s what going to make this group so much fun to watch. They are a bunch of fighters. Doesn’t matter who they are going to fight against, they are going to stay in your face and let you know that we aren’t going to back down. It starts from the top, and Coach Zach Sanders has already said his group better be ready to bring it. 


“We are going to be the team that excels at doing the little things right,” said Sanders. We are going to get hit by pitches, advance on dirt balls, bunt for hits, and battle to the last out.”


That they for sure will. The roster is set up with 14 players that are extremely versatile at what they do. Lots of guys have the ability to play multiple positions and do so at a very high level. Isaac Schafer (Wilson Central H.S.) is as athletic as they come. He runs a 6.99 / 60’ time that allows him to play everywhere in the outfield. However, the bulk of his success this spring season has been his ability on the mound. One notable performance from him earlier this year, was him shutting out Mount Juliet H.S. in a 1-0 victory in district play. He has been an absolute competitor all season long, and he is going to translate that well once summer begins.


“I’m ready for the summer,” said Schafer. I am looking forward to competing as a team, and competing against some of the best talents.”


Dylan Guethlein (Wilson Central H.S.) is a returner to the Mafia from last year, and the crafty lefty / OF is ready to make a huge jump this summer. He’s been battling with a knot in his throwing arm but should be able to return throughout the summer. This will be big as the southpaw fills up the zone, and creates a lot of good matchups with his off-speed stuff to complement everything. 


Donovan Peebles (Smyrna H.S.) was with us last year as well, so he knows the expectation that is needed to compete against these really high-level teams. 


“We are going to get our job done this summer,” said Peebles. “We have a lot of talent on this team for us to be a winning team. Now we just gotta go get it done.”


Peebles will be another huge piece on the mound this summer as he’s been up into the low 80’s this spring. His bat from the left-hand side has quite the pop. Hitting 2 home runs on his varsity campaign.


Speaking of pop, Jack Murray (Sycamore H.S.), Nicolas Kropf (Davidson Academy), Cameron Curtis (Rockvale H.S.), and Daniel Floyd (MTCS) are going to be asked to be huge run-producers for the squad, and they definitely have the strength to do so as well. Murray, who will do some catching this summer, can absolutely hit baseballs at will. His strength is legit as he showed back in October with an 89 exit velocity to his resume. He’s a freak athlete. Kropf, another catcher for the squad has been asked to do quite a lot of it this spring for Davidson Academy. He responded well, and his bat really came to life and stayed that way all season long. His approach is simple which allows him to barrel up baseball as consistent as they come. 


Cameron Curtis who is a young buck for the old guys on the 2023 team is ready for the challenge this upcoming summer. Don’t be mistaken this 2024 can really swing it and has really thrown well this spring, even making an appearance on the bump for varsity. Daniel Floyd looks like a gentle giant, but again if you haven’t kept up with the theme, he can really swing it. Another guy with an easy approach that allows him to hit a baseball to all fields, is also going to be asked to do some mound time for the squad this summer as well.


Bakari Rush (MLK) is another catcher that provides this group a ton of depth if ever in a pinch behind the plate. Bakari moves well for his size and has a really strong arm to go with it. He’s one of the hardest working people we have had the chance to be around.


Drew Jones (Wilson Central H.S.), Landon Phillips (Lebanon H.S.), and Ty Burk (Cookeville H.S.) create a lot of that versatility we were referring to earlier in the article. All three are going to be asked to play multiple positions and do so at a very high level. Especially along the infield which all three have the ability to play on the left-side or at 2B. Drew Jones is another fast-twitch athlete that is going to be a force to be reckoned with when he gets on 1B. The man can absolutely run with the best of them. On the mound, Burk has received innings late on varsity this spring in Cookeville. Phillips was asked to be a huge contributor for his team this Spring on the bump. Both are going to compete against anybody and challenge hitters every single time they step foot on the rubber.   


The “Clarksville Gang” Eli Proctor (Clarksville H.S.), Preston Brooks (Clarksville H.S.), and Briley Hagewood (Clarksville H.S.) might be 2024’s, but these boys are going to compete against anybody. They were a part of a Clarksville JV group that went a ridiculous 19-0 this spring season. These boys know how to compete, and they know how to win. Eli, a smooth-moving OF can really swing it. He patrolled a lot of CF this spring and is continuing to come into his own with his frame. He has been really solid on the bump and will be huge for us as he continues to grow and get stronger. Preston is as smooth as a middle infielder as there is going to be. Moves really well laterally to combo it with his quick hands. He is your prototypical SS type who is going to bring a lot of leadership to the squad. Briley, a left-handed hitting swinging stick is going to be another big bat to add to an already strong lineup. He’s got the size, and the tenacity to go toe for toe with anyone. 


Hard work and determination are going to help lead this group to a strong summer season. From top to bottom, all of the players know they are going to fight and fight until the very end. That’s what Coach Sanders wants though. He wants what he calls “a DAWG Mentality.”


“I would much rather have a group of DAWGS out there than a bunch of arrogant dudes with talent doing their own thing,” said Sanders. “We need to play together, be disciplined, and do things others won’t. If we embrace this mindset early, you are going to see a lot of really strong success as a team this summer.”