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High School Standouts: Providence Academy’s Runnels finds peace on the diamond

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – It was all about tee ball for Providence Academy senior Merritt Runnels growing up – the first move to following in his dad’s footsteps.

“My dad played baseball in high school,” he explained. “So, he kind of influenced me to play baseball.”

It was one of the ways they would spend quality time together.

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“He used to take me to batting cages that are near – help me hit and throw the ball,” he said, “and play wiffle ball and stuff like that.”

Now, as a high schooler, Runnels uses the game to center himself.

“I just like the calming nature of it – and it’s also very team-oriented,” he said. “I’ve grown really close to my teammates over the years and I just love playing with them.”

Coming up through the Providence Academy system since kindergarten has allowed him to forge that familial bond even stronger than most.

“Everybody on the team is such a great dude and a great teammate,” he said. “No one on the team is selfish and wants it just for themselves.”

It’s the type of mentality that’s been instilled into these Knights by coaches across the years.

“Learning how to sacrifice yourself for your teammates and how to do everything for your teammates – not for yourself,” Runnels said.

PA had just two seniors on this year’s squad, but a wealth of talent. It’s helped carry the group all the way to the Division II-A quarterfinals against Northpoint Christian. There’s still plenty to play for on Wednesday, but this campaign has already helped fulfill some of Runnels’ senior-year goals.

“Having fun and winning games,” he smiled. “Yeah – pretty simple.”

He enjoys the game so much, he just can’t keep it to himself. He spent last summer as an instructor for some local youth baseball camps.

“It’s such a fun game to play and I want to share having fun with other people,” he said.

He plans on following his dad’s lead, once again, into the medical field. After graduation, Runnels plans to attend ETSU in hopes of starting on the pre-med track.

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