“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:
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.”
The young bucks in the 8th-grade class step up to the plate first in this team preview. A group built on guys who are going to bust their tails day in and day out. These guys are going to continue to thrive to become the very best versions of themselves.
“Our goal for the season is to have these guys prepared,” said 2025 head coach Tyler Maskill. “We are going to do our very best to advance them both physically and mentally. We want the head coach of their rising high school team to be amazed at their baseball IQ first as physical maturity will come as they grow older.”
That’s always the challenge when it comes to this age group, is understanding that there will be growing pains as they continue to mature over time. Nonetheless, this group is ready to make an impact early and often as the season is right around the corner.
This team is built around 13 players in all, with 12 out of the 13 all having the chance to step foot on the mound and make an impact right away. Expect huge innings from Logan Barney (Mount Juliet MS) and Chase Fernandez (Stewarts Creek MS) as both have been in the upper 70’s all spring long. Both guys showing their strength & pitchability to beat anybody. They are a nice duo to pair with Zeb Major (Tuckers Crossroads) who is your crafty lefty who can come in any spot you need him to be for this pitching staff as a whole. Let’s just call him the “glue” for the staff.
Controlling the staff behind the plate this summer season is going to belong to none other than Baylor Osborne (West Wilson MS). His ability to control the game for his guys on the bump will continue to be a huge asset for this team to succeed.
“I feel like we got a great group of young guys that can do some damage,” said Osborne. “People are going to remember what we are all about when they play us. We want everyone to fear us.”
Around the infield, we have Alexander Peck (USN) who is as athletic as anyone we have seen play middle infield. Which did not go unnoticed this Spring season when he officially got the call up to play varsity baseball on the high school team. He gets paired with the “super-twins”, in Cory & Carson Hoard (Grassland MS) who are your utility men around the field. Wherever you need them, they will go and compete in any spot for you.
Every team has to have their grinders. Pair Cade Thorne (Winfree Bryant MS) & Gabe Gray (Mount Juliet MS) together and you get just that. Both dudes are selfless, hard-nosed, and willing to do the dirty work to help the team succeed.
“Those are going to be two dudes that every coach loves to have,” said H.S. Director Matt Cohick. “They will get hit by pitches, they will work counts, they’ll do all the dirty work while staying locked-in no matter where they are in the game for their team.”
Offensively, all of these dudes are going to make huge impacts as the offense is a huge strength for this team as a whole. However, Caden Webber (Gladeville MS), Brady Burns (Eagleville), Chase Cameron (Henry County), and Cameron Obee (Ensworth) are going to be the main run-producers for this squad this season.
Caden Webber is a walking RBI machine and proved that all Fall as he finished 2nd in RBI’s on the campaign. It felt like he came up with the big hit when needed during the Fall. He’s a guy who is not afraid of the moment that’s for sure. Brady Burns just finds a barrel every time he steps in the box. As coaches, we know even if the numbers may not show in the box score, a QAB is more often than not shown when Brady Burns’ name appears.
Chase Cameron is probably the biggest secret on this team. Big strong left-handed stick who has already parked a bomb on this Spring season this middle school. The lefty stick is legit, and he’s in line to be a huge run-producer for the mafia. Cameron Obee, (brother to Devin Obee, recent Duke commit), may not look like it with his huge physical stature, but he’s the youngest on this group as he’s still a 2026 grad. He sure doesn’t play like a 7th grader though as he put together one of the more impressive Falls from a swinging standpoint.
The 2025 group is well-assembled to make a huge run in every event they play in with the versatility and depth they have at each position on the field. Their tournament schedule is no joke as they play all the way down into Hoover, AL in the WWBA National Championships, all the way up to Westfield, IN to play against some of the best teams in the Midwest at Grand Park. They are definitely ready for the challenge as they are biting at the bits to get this season rolling.
“I already have players asking me what they can do to take their game to the next level,” said Coach Tyler Maskill. “I expect a lot of growth from this summer, we will continue to grow within the game, and you never know maybe even bring back some hardware to 5 Star along with it.”
– Midsouth Staff