The ball had more pop off the bat last year. And for good reason. Rossview baseball coach Jason Rice had a talented lineup that included Austin Atwell and Wes Morehead.
With those seniors leading the way, Rossview captured the regular season and district tournament crown before the season ended at the hands of Independence in the Class AAA sectional.
This year was going to be much different and Rice knew it.
“This year was going to be a continuation of last year to a degree,” he said. “But this was going to be a vastly different team too.”
It was a different team. The balls weren’t flying out of the park quite as much as last year. Instead, the Hawks scrapped, scratched and clawed their way to another District 10-AAA tournament championship and another sectional appearance. And for his efforts this season, Rice was named The Leaf-Chronicle All-Area Baseball Coach of the Year for the second straight season.
The award was voted on by the newspaper’s sports staff, while the All-Area Baseball team was selected by the area athletics directors and the paper’s sports staff.
“Obviously you like to score a lot of runs,” Rice said. “In terms of stress, yeah, it’s easier on you when you score a lot of runs. But I have to be honest. It’s a lot more fun when you win those close games, when you play small-ball. There’s a lot more that goes into the coaching aspect of the game when you have to find ways to score runs.”
Rossview could put on an offensive show when it wanted to. It put up 16 runs against Trousdale County, 12 against Kenwood, 13 against Henry County and 16 runs against West Creek. But Rice’s team prided itself on being able to get guys on base, move the runners and somehow get those runs across the plate. His team generated 141 stolen bases this past spring while the Hawks finished the season 27-9.
“I don’t think anyone would have picked us to win the district again when the season started,” Rice said. “I’d say we would’ve been around fourth or fifth. But we had amazing senior leadership that started with Tanner (Kint) and Dray (Knight).”
Rice was brought back to Rossview baseball three years ago to bring stability and discipline back into the program. He’s also preached it to his players and Kint and Knight carried that message to the underclassmen.
Rice said Knight was the vocal leader while Kint often was the silent one, but both “controlled the clubhouse.”
“I told them right after that loss to Independence last year that the next year was going to be their year and their team and they had to step up and be leaders,” Rice said. “They stood up and were exactly what we needed and you can’t overvalue that.”
The Hawks’ 10-2 district record helped them win the regular season title and host the district tournament where they took care of West Creek, Northeast, Clarksville High and eventually Northwest in the district title game.
A 3-2 victory against Station Camp in the region put the Hawks back in the region championship game against Mt. Juliet, which won its fifth consecutive region crown with a 9-1 victory. Rossview would go on to lose a heartbreaking 3-2 game to Franklin in the 3A sectional when a hit batsman scored the winning run in the eighth inning.