MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Silverdale Baptist Academy, overcoming three errors in the sixth inning that tied the scored, got a game-winning hit from Matt Millard in the seventh and shocked three-time defending champion Decatur County Riverside, 2-1, Wednesday in the Class A state baseball tournament.
“I was just hoping to get another at-bat,” said Millard, who had popped up, flied out and bounced back to the mound in three previous plate appearances. “It really feels great to come through like that.”
The emotional victory, played at Middle Tennessee Christian’s Joe Baron Field, sent the Seahawks (28-2-1) into the winner’s bracket final on Thursday at 3 p.m. Eastern time. Silverdale will play Decatur County (31-7), which eliminated Summertown, 12-9, on Wednesday night.
Summertown destroyed Rockwood, 18-2, prior to the Silverdale game to stay alive in the Spring Fling tournament.
Silverdale coach Jonathan Adcock hesitated before being able to put the win in perspective.
This is what he was mulling over in his mind:
Decatur County is making its fifth state tournament appearance. The Panthers won successive titles in 2010-12 and finished second in 2009. They came into Wednesday’s game with a 16-2 record in Spring Fling play. They had lost as many state tourney games as Silverdale had played in.
Combine the Panthers’ state tournament records in those title seasons and they were 102-13.
Silverdale beat the Panthers and the odds.
“This is the biggest win in our history,” Adcock said. “We knew they would be tough, especially offensively. We felt they probably threw their best pitcher on Tuesday, but their guy today was really tough, too.
“But we knew what Spencer (Mossburg, the Seahawks’ hurler) is capable of doing. The coaches challenged him by saying, ‘Spencer, this is your game. Give it everything you’ve got and don’t worry about pitching again in the tournament. And you saw what he did.”
Mossburg checked the Panthers on four hits and no runs over five innings. He was in complete command until the Seahawks’ vaunted defense crumbled in the sixth.
Decatur County’s Alex Vise reached on third baseman Josiah Green’s error. Luke Ward popped out to Green. Vise was wiped out on a fielder’s choice by Hunter Pulley. Dakota McCollum reached safely on Joey Szollosi’s error. Then, Silverdale second baseman Jordan Delashmitt misplayed Dylan Britt’s grounder and the Panthers tied the game at 1-1.
Mossburg walked Alex Hays, but struck out Jordan Goff to end the inning.
“It’s going to happen,” Adcock said. “That’s baseball. You have to pick your head up and keep going. We preach to our guys that nothing bothers us. Nothing gets us down. Keep going until the umpire says ballgame. That’s what we do.”’
Silverdale, which has won 26 of its last 27 games, including 11 in a row, and is ranked No. 1 in the latest coachT.com poll, took a 1-0 lead in the first, but had a chance for a bigger start.
Mossburg drew a walk from Panthers pitcher Alex Whitwell. Josh Bankston followed with a bloop hit down the left-field foul line. Szollosi walked. Green walked on four pitches to push Mossburg across with the game’s first run.
Whitwell found his groove and struck out Reid Clements, retired Millard on a pop to first and struck out Chance Brown.
In the Silverdale seventh inning – the Seahawks were the visiting team for the second straight day – and the bases-loaded, Millard slapped a 1-2 pitch from Whitwell up the middle to score Mossburg with what turned out to be the winning run.
“It was a fastball outside,” Millard said. “I wanted to keep things simple and hit the ball hard. I was pretty excited when it went through the infield.”
Mossburg started the inning with a hit to center. Josh Bankston popped out to third. Josiah Green popped to short, but Fisher dropped the ball. Green was out on an infield fly, but the runners advanced on Fisher’s misplay.
Clements, Tuesday’s winning pitcher, worked Whitwell for a walk on a 3-2 pitch after fouling off two pitches.
Adcock had a feeling Millard would produce.
“Every time Reid took a ball, Matt was over the (in the on-deck circle) pumping his fist,” Adcock said. “He wanted to get up there. Matt’s a super competitor and he’s been solid for us all year.”
Millard had something on his mind, other than delivering a clutch hit.
“I haven’t been hitting the last few games,” he said. “I swung at a bad pitch and with two strikes I just wanted wait on an off-speed pitch, keep my weight back and make contact. It really felt great to come through like that.”
Mossburg (9-0) finished with an effective five-hitter coming from five different Decatur County players. Ward and Clint Fisher each had doubles.
Mossburg struck out five and walked six.
“Hitting-wise and the way they battled,” he said, “they proved they’re a great team. You have to commend them for sticking with it. As for the sixth inning, the defense has been there all year. It’s tough sometimes to mentally stay with it when something like that doesn’t go your way.”
Mossburg threw 118 pitches – 71 for strikes – in going the distance. His best inning was the fourth when he threw just 10 pitches, eight in the strike zone, and negated Ward’s leadoff double by retiring Pulley and McCollum and groundouts and striking out Dylan Britt.
“I tried to stick with the stuff I know,” Mossburg said. “I wanted to throw it in there for contact and trust my defense.”
What about the final out?
“Chance has been awesome. As soon as their guy hit the ball I knew Chance was going to reel it in. When he turned I was thinking, ‘Hey, it’s tough out there in that situation. You’re tight and nervous and the ball is floating around up there, but he came down with it and probably made the biggest play of his life.
“This was an awesome win and I’m almost speechless. Obviously, it’s the biggest win of the season. It’s over now and we have to keep pushing on.”
The hard-throwing right-hander also had kind words for Millard delivering the clutch seventh-inning hit.
“That was awesome,” he said. “He’s struggled a little bit and his confidence might have been down, but not for one second in last at-bat did he doubt himself. He did an amazing job battling up there and sitting on that pitch. We’re all real proud of him.”
Adcock said that Colton Rogers (6-1), a junior right-hander, would probably start Thursday’s game.
“He’s been a big-time pitcher for us, too,” Adcock said. “He’ll be ready.”
Decatur County has won four in a row and 20 of 22 games before Silverdale dropped the Panthers into the loser’s bracket.
Siverdale Academy 100 000 1 -- 2 7 3
Decatur County 000 001 0 -- 1 5 1
Mossburg and Bankston; Whitwell and Vise.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)