2018 Rhea County Baseball honors Seniors

Rhea County Baseball Seniors(left to right), Lucas Travis, Braden Sims, Reece Cooley, Matthew Levi and Hunter Hale were honored before Sequatchie game on May 1st.(Photo:GaryBolden/RheaReview)

Five Seniors honored and Lucas Travis receives Leadership Award

May 2018

Evensville, TN —  Rhea County baseball took time before their Sequatchie County baseball game at home to celebrate the careers of their five seniors on field before the game.  Rhea County won the game 13-3 behind Braden Sims on the mound and with a Ross Pendergrass grand slam highlighting the scoring.  Braden won the “Iron Eagle” for his pitching performance.  Coach Ray was glad to see the team getting some momentum going into the district tournament.  The Eagles play Stone Memorial in a play-in game on Saturday, May 5th at 12 noon at home.

Lucas Travis receives Tyler Reed Award

Lucas Travis received the Tyler Reed teammate award before the game. This award is given to the player dedicated to teammates and coaches and voted on by juniors on the team. Player who plays hard and always want to succeed on and off the field. The Tyler Reed Award was instituted in April 2011 in memory of Tyler Reed, a former four year Rhea County Baseball player who died on December 1, 2010. The Award had been presented since the 2011 season.  Several family members of Tyler Reed were present for the presentation.

Thanks to Kimberly Perkinson Cooley sharing her write ups on the seniors.

Reece Cooley

Reece Cooley is the son of Robin and Kim Cooley. He has played baseball for 14 years. Besides school teams, he has played travel ball every summer and some falls since he was in 8th grade. ‘I liked playing when I was little because I was with my friends, especially during All Stars. I loved that time of year,” he said. “My favorite memory from those years was any time we beat Middle Valley. They were our biggest rival and I loved beating them.”

Reece said that when was a very young player, his dad was his biggest influence. “My dad was a really good player when he was young and I wanted to make him proud of me,” he said. “As I got older, I was more focused on making my mom proud and my older brother. It became important to me to do my best for my family and for me.”

His biggest challenge has been achieving a level of confidence. “I really struggled with that last year,” he explained. “I would get up to the plate and my heart would beat so hard. This year, I haven’t let my nerves get the best of me. I have stayed calm and focused. Reaching a level of confidence has helped me play better.”

Efficient in left field for most of his high school career, he moved to centerfield his senior year. But LF is where his favorite high school memory happened. “My sophomore year, we were playing Bradley at home and they were whipping our tail,” he said. “It was like 12 to nothing. This guy gets up to bat and just bashes one to the fence in left field. Westin (Ray) is hollering ‘jump, jump’ so I jumped as high as I could, literally my glove went over the fence and I came down with the ball. Westin and I celebrated like we just won the World Series. Best moment ever.”

Though that play against Bradley is a stand out, Reece said the best part of high school ball has been the friendships he has made. The sport has taught him a simple life lesson: trust the process. “Things might go wrong, oh, they’re gonna go wrong,” he said. “But if you learn from mistakes and have confidence, things will progress. Just trust the process.”

His advice to the young Eagles will make sense if you know Reece well. “Take a joke and have a sense of humor,” he said. “Don’t take things so seriously. Honestly, have fun and learn how to lighten up.”

Reece plans to attend Carson-Newman in the fall, and wants to become a pharmacist.

Reecie Cup, you’ve made some memorable plays in the outfield through the years, and your playlist this year was the bomb (even though T.G. doesn’t agree). We wish you much luck.

Braden Sims

Braden Sims is the son of Angela and Jason Palmer, and Sean Sims. Like his fellow senior teammates, Braden has played baseball since he was four. “I really liked seeing the older players out there when I was little,” he said. “I wanted to be just like them. I always enjoyed playing. My favorite position was third base and pitcher, and my best memory was All Stars.”

Braden credits his step-father, Jason, as having the biggest influence on his baseball career. “He has always tried to make me a better player and a better pitcher,” he said. He has helped me throughout the years.”

HIs biggest challenge has been working to get better each year. “I’ve tried hard to keep my arm in good condition,” Braden said. “I’ve tried to get stronger each year.”

Braden is a pitcher for RCHS, and he points to his sophomore year on the team as giving him the best memory. “I have to say my favorite moment was winning the district championship at Cookeville in the pouring rain,” he said. “It was just an amazing night.”

Braden said baseball has taught him that you can’t accomplish anything on your own – everything is a team effort. “Doing things on your own rarely works. You need other people in your life ot help you achieve your goals.”

To the Eagle players coming up through the ranks, Braden says – “Work hard. Work hard durin the season and in the off season. Stay healthy and do do stupid things or make stupid decisions that might hinder you from playing.”

Braden plays to join the Union Local 43 to complete a five-year program and become a pipefitter and welder.

It is hard to turn loose of you, B. You have set a good example of maturity for the younger players – you have stayed the course and you haven’t given up. We wish you luck in all you do.

Lucas Travis

Lucas Travis is the son of Chris and Jennifer Travis, and has been on the baseball field since he was four. “When I was little, I loved playing with my friends,” he said. “Baseball was something we could do together that was competetive. My favorite position was the pitcher’s circle. My favorite memory was when I was six, Lane (Keylon) and I were on the same team. If a ball was hit to the left, he would cover home. If it was hit to the right, I would cover home. We had our defense down to an art.”

Lucas says his dad was the biggest influence on his performance as a baseball player. “My dad and basically everyone who has ever coached me,” he explained. “Coach Swafford has been a big influence on me during my high school years. He is always there for the guys and will have a one-on-one about what you’re doing wrong and how you can fix it.”

Consistency has been a challenge for him through the years, he said. “I’ve struggled with it offensively and defensively. But you have to overcome that and work hard,” he said.’

His favorite high school baseball memory was returning to play his sophomore year after shoulder surgery. “I missed all pre-season, but made it back in time for the first district game that year.”

Lucas said baseball has taught him to be patient. “You’re ot going to be good or successful right off the bat,” he said. “You have to really work at something to be good at it. That’s where patience comes in.

He advises the underclassmen on the team to embrace hard work and not take failures to heart. “Just work hard and no matter what goes wrong or doesn’t go your way, forget about it and get the next play. No matter how bad you mess up, you will have other opportunities. One bad play does not define your career.”

Lucas will take these lessons and wise words and apply them as he heads to Bryan College to play baseball as a Lion and to major in business.

You may say you have struggled with consistency, #1, but your positive attitude has always been in place…unwaivering. We wish you luck as you continue playing the game.

Matt Levi

Matt Levi, son of Jeff and Sue Ann Levi, has been playing baseball for 13+ years. “When I was little, the excitement of the crowd when we made a good play and just hanging out with my friends at the ball field motivated me to play,” he said. “My favorite memory from when I was little was going to the World Series and placing third. That was the best.”

Matt credits his dad with being a huge influence on him. “He pushed me to get where I needed to be,” he said. “He always pushed me to get better.”

When he was younger, Matt was a stellar short stop. This year, he’s owned his right field position, and has been a consistent hitter for the team. He says throughout his years of playing baseball, he has learned that failure is something you will experience, but it isn’t a bad thing. “Failure is key to improving your game,” he said. “You strike out, you still have to go back up to bat an inning or two later. You miss a play, you still have to stand out there in your position ready for the next one. Failure can’t own you. You have to learn from it and get better.”

His favorite memory from his high school baseball career might sound odd at first – he said it was senior night last year. “Look, it’s my favorite memory but it’s also sad,” he explained. “I mean, we were losing our seniors, but we all stood out on the field after the game and reminisced about all the years we had played together – some of us have played with three of those seniors since we were four years old. It was just a really great night with really great friends.”

The swift-footed right fielder plans to attend Chattanooga State and work toward a business degree. He leaves these words of wisdom to the young Eagles: “Enjoy every second on the field – I mean every day, every minute, every practice because I’m telling you it will fly by real quick,” he said. “I remember coming in as a freshman and dreading practice. Now, as a senior, I wish I could go back and do it all over again. So don’t wish these days away.”

Hunter Hale

Hunter Hale, son of Candice Hale and Richard Hale, has been playing baseball since he was 4. “I just had a passion for the sport when I was little,” Hunter said. “My mom pushed me toward it but I took to it and loved every minute.” Besides his mom, Hunter said his coaches through the years have been the biggest influence on him as an athlete. “I’ve had some good coaches – Chris Reel and Dewayne Smith. But Dewayne probably had the biggest impact on me as an athlete because he taught me how to throw a curve ball.”

Hunter said baseball was fun in his earlier years, when short stop was his favorite position. He said he enjoyed playing with all of his friends, but his best memory from the early years is traveling to South Haven, Mississippi, for the World Series with teammates Dusty Smith and Blaine Reel. His favorite memory from his high school days is returning to the game after taking a two-year break. “I played my freshman year then quit,” he said. “But my senior year, I decided come back. Now that we’re at the end of it, I really wish I could go back and redo those years and play. My favorite moment, though, was my freshman year when I got the chance to play in varsity game. I got two strike-outs, a hit, and two RBIs. It was great.”

Hunter is a pitcher for RCHS and has been productive at the plate since returning to the team.

He isn’t exactly certain what field he will enter, but Hunter plans to attend some type of tech school after graduation. He has taken a welding class at RCHS, but would really like to be a diesel mechanic.

Hunter leaves the following advice to the underclassmen as they carry on the Eagle tradition on Rankin Field after this senior class departs: “Play as a team. To make it work, you have to have team work. You have to work as a team to accomplish your goals.”

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