Baylor had 20 athletes and two coaches win 23 awards in eight sports, as the latest round of the Chattanooga Times Free Press Best of Preps series, a feature that highlights the area's best prep athletes and coaches, was announced in the local paper over the last two weeks.
Previous Best of Preps lists this year featured 12 more athletes and another coach in five more sports. Of those 26 athletes, only seven graduated in 2019, seven are freshmen, and one is an eighth grader.
(Though golf and girls' soccer are fall sports in Tennessee, they are played in the spring in Georgia, prompting the spring announcements by the TFP.)
Baylor coach Gary Partrick was named Coach of the Year for boys' golf. In his tenth season at the Baylor golf helm, Partrick led the Baylor boys to a state record 18th state championship last fall, the Raiders' first since 2015. Baylor beat the two teams tied for second by 15 strokes for the title. Baylor's boys also won the Baylor Preview and City Prep tournaments.
Joining Partrick as Best of Preps players were Sheldon McKnight '22, who finished third at the state tournament as a freshman, and Demi di Matteo '20, who finished fourth. The Baylor girls' team, also coached by Partrick, had two Best of Preps honorees – Kyndall Shamblin '22, another freshman that finished third at the state tournament, and Preslee Yoder '20.
Avery Davis '19, an All-State pick and Elon signee, scored 18 goals and assisted on six others in the fall earning her spot on the girls' soccer Best of Preps list.
With five players on the 30-man Best of Preps baseball team, it's easy to see how Baylor won its second consecutive state championship at the Spring Fling last month. With all five returning next year, it's clear to see why more titles may be coming. Colin Ahearn '20, a Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association's Mr. Baseball finalist, leads the list followed by fellow rising seniors Gehrig Ebel and Christian Martin and rising juniors Danny Corona and Cooper Kinney. Ahearn was 6-0 with a 1.83 ERA while hitting .347 with five home runs and 26 RBI; Ebel, who has committed to Virginia Tech, batted .375 with four homers and 30 RBI; Martin hit .402 with five dingers and 26 RBI; shortstop Corona, a Wake Forest commitment, hit .367; and Kinney batted .393 with five homers and 26 RBI.
Scrappy Moore Female Athlete of the Year finalist Syd Berzon '22 leads the Best of Preps list for the Baylor softball team that won its fifth consecutive and 13th overall state championship this spring. The freshman pitcher, who has committed to LSU, was 20-2 with a 0.75 ERA while striking out 213 batters in 112 innings. She also batted .423 with five homers and 46 RBI. Berzon is joined by rising senior and Auburn commitment Makayla Packer, also a Scrappy Moore Female Athlete of the Year finalist, who hit .456 with four homers and scored 31 runs in 45 games. Packer was also a Best of Preps pick in track (see below). Rounding out the list is rising senior Sophie Piskos, a .488 hitter with eight home runs and 44 RBI. Piskos has committed to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Track and Field
Being named to a Best of Preps list in any sport is an honor; being named to the list in two sports, in the same season, approaches legendary status. Makayla Packer '20, already a pick in the softball category (see above), also appears on the list for track and field. Packer repeated as state champion in the 200 meter dash and was second in the 100, an event she won last year. She also anchored the second place 4 X 100 meter relay team, setting a new school record, and the third place 4 X 200 relay team. Graduating senior Wiley Pippenger represents Baylor on the boys' track and field Best of Preps team. Pippenger scored in four events at the state meet, placing third in the 300 meter hurdles, fourth in the 110 meter hurdles, fourth in the state decathlon, and eighth in the high jump.
Baylor coach Kevin Donovan was named Coach of the Year in his second season at the Raider helm. Baylor won its ninth straight state championship this season.
Graduating senior Landie McBrayer was the state singles runner-up and provided the winning point for the Raiders' team state championship. Rising senior Anna Hawkins capped her season by advancing to the semifinals of the state doubles tournament.
Repeat state doubles champions Benji Taverne '19 and Hunter Smith '20 were shoe-ins for a Best of Preps pick and are joined by Ethan Burgan '20 and Manuel Achurra '21.
Baylor wrestling coach Ben Nelson was named Coach of the Year after leading the 19-0 Red Raiders to both duals and traditional state championships this season.
Nearly half of the Baylor lineup was chosen as the Best of Preps wrestling team with all six Raider state champions – Jackson Bond '22, Garrison Dendy '22, David Harper '22, Noah Horst '20, Andrew Pace '19, and Mason Reiniche '19 – making the list.
Girls' Cross Country
The future looks bright for the Baylor girls' cross country team and for this year's Best of Preps pick, Helen Webb '23. Webb finished third at the state meet as an eighth grader, leading the Raiders to a third place team finish and earning All-State honors.
Making the Best of Preps list for the state runner-up Baylor volleyball team were graduating seniors Ally Craig and Denver Rogers and rising junior Elaine Redman. Craig was the region MVP and was joined on the All-Region team by Rogers.
Rising senior Noah Martin represented Baylor on the Best of Preps football team.
Beyuan Hendricks '19 led the Baylor boys' basketball team to a 22-6 record and the state semifinal game in 2019. He was a TSSAA Mr. Basketball finalist, averaging 18 points and nearly five assists per game for the Raiders.