HICKORY FLAT • Nolan Stevens will take over the Hickory Flat baseball program following the resignation of Andy Dillard.

Stevens' hire was approved by the Benton County School Board on Monday, May 11.

"It means everything to be able to have the opportunity to be a head coach as early as it is in my coaching career," said Stevens. "To be able to make an immediate impact on a team and a group of young men has always been my goal. Growing up you want to see how far you can make it playing this game and when your playing time runs out, you want to keep sharing your love for the game with guys who love it just as much as you do."

In his first year as a certified teacher, Stevens served as the head fast-pitch softball coach for Hickory Flat. The Lady Rebels were off to a 4-0 start with wins over Biggersville, Walnut, Falkner and Blue Mountain. In the four games, Hickory Flat plated 46 runs, showing improvement at the plate in a small sample size under Stevens.

A hire has yet to be made to replace Stevens' role with the Lady Rebels but he is confident that whoever takes over, will find success with the current group.

"One of the hardest things I'm having to do is leave my softball team," claimed Stevens. "They were a great group that respected and played the game the right way. The girls bonded great together and I think that is what made them so successful. The potential they have is incredible. They are young and very competitive, and I wish nothing but the best for them."

The move to coach baseball is something Stevens has always dreamed of. Stevens graduated from Harding Academy in Memphis, Tennessee in 2015, where he earned a baseball scholarship to Blue Mountain College. He then spent the next four years as a catcher for the Toppers, where he graduated in 2019 with a degree in Exercise Science.

Stevens inherits a baseball program that Dillard has been building on the last seven seasons. Over those sevens years, the Rebels hold a 55-87 record and have reaches the playoffs five times, including a second round appearance in the Class 1A playoffs in 2019, where they were swept by West Union.

Hickory Flat was off to a rocky 0-6 start before the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the rest of the season. The Rebels' feature one of the area's better players in junior pitcher and catcher Chris Smith. Smith is one of four juniors that will return to next year's team along with three sophomores, five freshman and one eighth grader that moved up this season. Hickory Flat will graduate four seniors from the current roster: Lane Gordon, Jonah Baker, Logan Weeks and Wesley Green.

"This team has a lot of potential," Stevens claimed on the future of Hickory Flat baseball. "I think we have a good group of younger guys that are almost ready to step up. I think if we can get these guys developed, they will be able to make an impact early on.

One thing I want my guys to learn how to do is to make an adjustment, whether it be at the plate or in the field. Errors and strikeouts are going to happen, but how we respond to that is what matters the most."

dillon.barnes@journalinc.com

Twitter: @SS_Sports_

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