Three Loudon County baseball players are still racking up postseason honors and were recently named to the Tennessee Baseball Report’s All-State teams.
Greenback School’s Bryce Hanley was selected first team as an infielder, while Reese Plemons and Loudon High School’s Nathan Hickman were selected as two-way athletes.
“That was one of my goals from the beginning of the season,” Hickman said. “It’s just a real big accomplishment looking at all those names from Loudon that’s made that team before and being part of that now.”
Hickman was one of the top performers for the Redskins the last two years and capped off his career on a high note this season in the Class 2A state tournament, where he completed a no-hitter with 13 strikeouts in a 4-0 win over Sequatchie County High School in the first round.
Hickman led the team with a 1.37 ERA, 112 strikeouts and eight wins as a starting pitcher in 61.1 innings.
“I worked a lot in the offseason because I knew that I would have to step up as a leader for the team,” he said. “I kind of just did what I’ve been doing the whole time I’ve been at Loudon, just kind of leading by example, keeping my head down and keep working hard. I knew all the accomplishments would come at the end of the season.”
Hanley and Plemons are two of a handful of athletes in Greenback history to earn All-State honors in two sports.
Hanley is a two-time All-State quarterback and 2018 Tennessee Titans Mr. Football Award winner, while Plemons is a two-time All-State lineman.
“It’s very special because at the school, we have an All-State wall,” Hanley said. “Looking up at it, you have a lot of football players, a few basketball players and a few wrestlers, but we only have one baseball player up there, so just knowing that I’ll have another picture up there on top of football means a lot to me. I think it just shows the athletes we have at Greenback. We have to do a lot of different things because we don’t have the same amount of guys that bigger schools have. It just shows that we can play at a high caliber at both sports.”
Hanley played a vital role in helping the Cherokees capture their first baseball state title this season.
He led the team with a .508 batting average and 54 runs scored. He also added 41 RBIs, three home runs and stole 24 bases.
On defense, Hanley was a reliable shortstop and effective pitcher, recording a 2.37 ERA in 41 innings with 44 strikeouts.
“Bryce did a lot for us, whether it was on the mound, shortstop or his leadership,” Wes Caldwell, former Greenback head baseball coach, said. “Bryce gave us a huge contribution on the mound and at the plate. Defensively, I thought he was as good a shortstop in all of East Tennessee. He fielded .950 and we weren’t a big strikeout team — we were a ground ball throwing team. We knew if a ground ball was hit to him, we knew that he was solid and he was going to make every play. He hit .500 and you’ve got the leadership component right there. I just can’t say enough good things about Bryce.”
For Plemons, making the team was the final goal to check off his Greenback career.
“That’s a big accomplishment,” he said. “That’s been my goal since sophomore year to make All-State. I really would’ve liked to have made it junior year, but making it senior year is still sweet.”
Plemons stepped up for the Cherokees this season as one of the team’s best overall athletes.
On offense, Plemons recorded 19 doubles, eight home runs and led the team with 46 RBIs.
“When we really score runs with guys that run well is when there’s a big guy in the middle of the lineup that can hit some home runs and doubles,” Caldwell said. “That’s what Reese was able to do for us. Reese worked real hard and he made a lot of improvements. He should get a lot of credit for that. All the things that aren’t fun to do to get better, Reese was dedicated and was willing to do all the things that aren’t fun to do to make himself better.”
Plemons devoted time in the offseason working out and getting in shape, which he credits as a reason for his success.
“Coach Caldwell had me in a yoga program,” Plemons said. “That was the biggest thing. It got me real flexible and stuff behind the plate. Running, doing abs, core and back — that was a big deal for pitching and having good velocity. Caldwell has a great arm program that he put us through and I believe everybody gained 2 or 3 mph from last year to this year.”
He was also the team’s leading defensive player as a catcher and pitcher, where he recorded a team-high 0.84 ERA and struck out 64 batters.
In the Class 1A state title game, he threw 120 pitches and struck out six en route to the Cherokees’ first state championship.
“We were a team that ran the bases a lot and used that to our advantage,” Caldwell said. “That’s part of what we were offensively — bunt, run, hit a lot of doubles and create havoc on the bases. On the flip side of that was Reese behind the plate and people weren’t able to do that on us because of Reese. When you put Reese on the mound, he picked off four or five people, and he controlled the running game on the mound. From a defensive standpoint, I mean, he’s a major college prospect as a catcher. He’s a 1-9 behind the plate.”