ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL)- In our new digital series ‘High School Standouts,’ Digital Sports Reporter Michael Epps features local athletes with incredible talent, hoping to take that talent to the next level.
These are athletes that stand out both on and off the field.
This week’s High School Standouts are Evan Carter and Karson Dillard, seniors on the Elizabethton baseball team.
Elizabethton High School has built itself a solid baseball program.
“We’re sending right now on average over two guys a year to go play college ball,” Elizabethton baseball head coach Ryan Presnell said.
Kids becoming Carter County stars.
“It’s always something as a coach man that’s such a huge sense of accomplishment to see one of your guys at the next level,” Presnell said.
That baseball community keeps an eye on the young kids, finding who will be the next star for the Cyclones.
“As somebody who watches a lot of baseball you could watch the swing and be like ok that’s a whole lot different than these other 8 9 years olds over here,” Presnell said.
That’s what people saw in current seniors Evan Carter and Karson Dillard.
“We’ve kinda got a mutual competitiveness that if he does something better than I am I’m doing it better than him the next time so each time we’re just climbing the ladder trying to be better than one another,” Carter said.
“We’ve always been there for each other sometimes we’d go down to the high school in the summer and throw and a lot of summer ball games together and that’s a friendship that nobody wants to lose,” Dillard said.
We’ll start with Carter, excelling as a pitcher and outfielder for the Cyclones.
“My mental side of the baseball game, mental toughness, coach P and the rest of the coaching staff really helped me out a lot I’ve matured a lot mentally just in the way I think about the game react towards the game,” Carter said.
“When you think about the picture of a smooth lefty swing Evan Carter is what you picture it’s textbook since he was a kid everybody knew about Evan Carter and what he brought to the table honestly when he was 8 9 10 years old people were telling me about this young man,” Presnell said.
Carter is on his way to playing Division-I ACC baseball. Duke offered him a scholarship in his sophomore year and officially signed this past fall.
Karson was right there with him on that fall signing day, but his story hits a little closer to home.
“Yeah my Dad played for Milligan my mom went to Milligan and it just felt like it clicked I’m there almost every year for homecoming and it’s really great,” Dillard said on his signing day.
“He wanted Milligan College because that’s where his dad went and he’s just that kind of kid he’s the kid that would go somewhere because of his dad you know he’s always listening to his dad and he loves his dad,” Presnell said.
Thomas Dillard played for Milligan in the last 1990’s, would go on to play in the Appalachian League for the Elizabethton Twins, then teamed up with his son Karson on the Elizabethton coaching staff.
“He just came up and asked me one day ‘hey you think you could make a spot,’ ha, yeah former player in the Twins organization and career hall of famer over at Milligan yeah we can make you a spot so we made him a spot and we’ve been so happy and really it’s been a godsend to watch him interact with his son on the baseball field,” Presnell said.
Karson became a key piece of this Cyclones team, a highly skilled catcher and a leader.
“Karson is a grinder man I hate washing his uniforms because they’re the dirtiest uniform you’ve ever seen he’s your pigpen he’s your guy behind the plate calling the shots,” Presnell said.
“I really just wanted to go out and have fun that was the main thing and get better with my teammates and enjoy the last memories that we’ve had,” Dillard said.
With their college plans squared away they hoped for a stress-free senior season. That has not happened yet due to the pandemic, but these guys know they still made their mark on this town and program.
Follow this series throughout the year as WJHL’s Michael Epps finds the High School Standout every week on WJHL.com.