Brett Standifer has been widely acknowledged as one of the top quarterbacks in District 5-AAA – early at Soddy-Daisy and this past season at Bradley Central – over the past two years.
It might surprise area sports fans that Standifer looked like a seasoned veteran making another start in a sterling baseball career on Tuesday.
Well, fans who don’t know Standifer well would be wrong.
Standifer, a senior, flirted with a no-hitter for 5.2 innings, finished with a three-hitter and pitched the Bears past East Hamilton, 2-1, in District 5-AAA baseball action at Chattanooga State.
In his first varsity high school start.
“Actually, I didn’t play high school baseball my sophomore and juniors year (at Soddy-Daisy) and only threw in a handful of games in relief my freshman year,” Standifer said after his complete-game gem against the Hurricanes.
Bears coach Travis Adams, whose team dropped an eight-inning, 7-6 decision to East Hamilton on Monday in Cleveland, didn’t know what to expect from Standifer, but got a sterling performance that was nothing short of impressive.
“Since Brett has been a quarterback, he’s used to being on stage,” Adams said. “He was really impressive. When he first came out we took baby steps with him in the bullpen and working on mechanics. He located the ball well and we know what a competitor he’s always been.”
Standifer lost his no-hit bid with two out in the sixth inning when center fielder Hunter Parker beat out a bunt single. Standifer then retired Hunter Owen on a fly ball to right field to end the inning.
He lost the shutout in the seventh when East Hamilton’s Nick Fahler walked and pinch-runner Garett Stone went to second on Quinn Griffith’s single up the middle and scored on pinch-hitter Josh Aslinger’s single to right.
Standifer fielded pinch-hitter Garett Owen’s bunt and threw home where catcher Kyler Lynn made the tag on a head-first sliding Logan Hammond, who was running for Griffith, for the second out.
Standifer got leadoff batter Matt Milita on a foul popup to first to end the game.
“I know several of those guys over there because I played with three or four of them on the same summer league team,” Standifer said. “I knew some of their weaknesses and all I was trying to do was locate my fastball, which I threw four out of five times all night.”
Said East Hamilton coach Steve Garland, “Golly bum. I coached Brett in the summer when he was 14 and I know he’s got a lot of talent. I also knew he took a couple of years off from high school ball. You would expect to see some rust.”
There was no sign of a layoff.
Standifer faced 18 batters over five innings – three over the minimum. The three Hurricanes runners reached on a walk, fielder’s choice and a fielding error. He retired East Hamilton in order in the second, third and fifth innings and went two outs into the sixth before giving up the first hit.
Standifer walked five and four came on 3-0 pitches. He went 3-1 before issuing the other walk.
“Brett was able to harness his aggressiveness and that was also impressive,” Adams said. “I’m proud of his effort. You just can’t say enough about that.”
Adams visited Standifer on the mound in the sixth, but went back to the dugout as he came out – alone.
“At the least I wanted to give him a chance to finish the game his way,” Adams said. “From the fifth on, we were going inning by inning. He said he felt good. He sure wasn’t going past seven this early in the season because his pitch count was getting up there.”
Standifer threw 89 pitches – 48 strikes and 41 balls.
Garland said the Hurricanes, making their District 5-AAA debut this season after moving up from a successful run in District 6-AA, can benefit from the split in one key category.
“This wasn’t the outcome we wanted tonight,” he said, “but it was good to see the quality pitching we saw this early. I told the guys welcome to 5-AAA. This was a great series, two games decided by one run, and we’ll see this type of competition the rest of the year. Every time out is going to be a battle.”
Bradley Central (1-1, 1-1) collected eight hits off two East Hamilton (1-1, 1-1) pitchers – starter Zach Thomas and reliever Ethan Hollingshead. Bears third baseman Logan Blackwell went 3-for-4, all singles.
The Bears scored an unearned run in the fifth off Thomas. With one out Jacob Barnes reached on a fielding error by shortstop Nicholas Woods and went to third on back-to-back walks to Standifer and Hunter Rogers.
Barnes came home on Lynn’s sacrifice fly to left.
The eventual winning run came in the sixth.
Second baseman Chandler Duggan led off with a single to left field and advanced to second and third on Hollingshead wild pitches. On a one-one pitch to Cal Pickel, Hollingshead uncorked another wild pitch in the dirt that got past Fahler and Duggan scored easily.
NOTE: East Hamilton first baseman Austin Gatewood, an all-state football player who signed with East Tennessee State University, will not play baseball this year after undergoing labrum surgery after being asked why the big left-handed slugger was not in Tuesday’s lineup.
Bradley Central 000 011 0 – 2 8 1
East Hamilton 000 000 1 – 1 3 1
Standifer and Lynn; Smith, Hollingshead (5) and Fahler.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)