Polk County two-sport standout Jared Allen and Walker Valley’s Brandon Zajac joined with McMinn County’s Drew Masingale in agreeing to become Volunteers after finishing their upcoming senior seasons.
“There’s a lot of good baseball down in this area and to have these guys get this opportunity just goes to show that,” commented Polk County coach Bill Triplett. “I can’t say 100 percent but I think Jared is the first Polk County athlete to get a chance to play in the Southeastern Conference.”
Despite being pursed by several NCAA Division I football programs for his skills on the gridiron, Allen has steadfastly proclaimed his preference for baseball and is thrilled at the opportunity to play for the Big Orange.
“Jared has said all along he wanted to go to UT whether he got to play there or not and now that he has the opportunity he will represent Polk County well,” Triplett assessed. “He is the consumate teammate and ball player. He’s the first one here and the last one to leave. He puts in a lot of extra work on his own to make himself better.”
“My parents have done everything they could to help me, but it’s still mind-blowing to me that I have this opportunity,” Allen recently remarked.
As the ace of the Wildcat pitching staff, Allen went 8-1on the mound this past season, but it is his bat that drew the attention of the Vol coaching staff. He led the Chattanooga area in hitting with a .547 battling average during the recent high school season with 26 of his 47 hits going for extra bases.
He blasted 15 home runs, 10 doubles and a triple, plus he stole 18 bases and drove in 47 runs as the Wildcats won the District 5-AA and Region 3-AAA championships for the first time since 1986.
Polk County came within a win of making the TSSAA state tournament field.
Tennessee coach Todd Raleigh wants Allen to play outfield while in Knoxville to have his bat in the lineup on an everyday basis.
“He also had offers from Middle Tennessee and Belmont,” related Coach Triplett. “I’m not surprised Jared committed to UT. It’s a dream come true for him.”
While Zajac was predominantly and outfielder for Walker Valley this past season, extra mound work this summer with former Charleston standout and Major Leaguer Jason Davis helped the 6-foot-4, 190-pound lefty impress the Vols with his pitching arm.
“He had some control issues and only pitched a few innings for us this season. Working with Coach (Dustin) McPherson during the season and a lot of extra work this summer with Jason (Davis) has gotten him more consistent. He has been hitting the radar gun at around 90 (miles per hour),” Mustang coach Joe Shamblin explained.
Davis spent six seasons in the major leagues with the Cleveland Indians, Seattle Mariners and Pittsburgh Pirates organizations.
Zajac was 2-2 for the Mustangs in the spring with a save. He struck out 16 and walked 13 in 17 innings of work.
At the plate, the left-handed swinger was second on the team with 42 hits, including nine doubles and a pair of triples. His .372 batting average helped him build a .456 on base percentage.
“I have wanted to go to UT since I was little. Getting to play baseball for the Vols is a plus,” Zajac recently stated.
A standout in the classroom as well as the diamond, Zajac has already scored a 31 on the ACT test.
“I’m glad to see Tennessee looking this way,” said Coach Shamblin. “This area has some good baseball talent.”
The Bradley and Polk County area not only have several current players on college rosters, but three which recently began their professional careers.
Former Mustang and University of Memphis standout Ryan Fraser (0-1) has lowered his earned run average to 1.29 in seven innings of work for the Class A Brooklyn Cyclones.
The New York Met farmhand has a dozen strikeouts and given up just one earned run in six relief appearances. He has also walked five batters hit one and given up five hits.
Cole Brand (1-0) has also been in six games for the Gulf Coast League Cardinals. The former Bradley Central flame thrower has struck out five, walked two and allowed just two hits and no earned runs in six innings of work.
Drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals, Brand turned down a chance to play at Clemson University to get his pro career started.
An interview with Brand was posted this week with the Cardinals Nation at Scout.com. and can be accessed at http://stlcardinals.scout.com/2/981895.html.
Going just 2-for-17 this past week, former Bradley Central and Cleveland State standout Ryan Casteel has seen his batting average dip to .263 in his first nine games for the Casper (Wyo.) Ghosts.
Playing in the Colorado Rockies organization, Casteel went 8-for-21 in his first five games. The good news is both of his hits this past week were doubles. He has scored three runs and driven in two.