SOUTH PITTSBURG -- The Boyd-Buchanan Buccaneers tied a school record here at William Leslie Kellermann Memorial Field Thursday night with their 14th straight win and the result was a 6-1 victory over the South Pittsburg Pirates and the Bucs first Region 3-A championship since 2010.
The game was scoreless through the first three innings, but the visiting Bucs took the lead with two runs in the fourth and they scored at least one run in every inning afterward.
South Pittsburg responded with a single run in the fourth, but that's all that sophomore righty Brandon Willingham would allow as he improved to 9-0 with the complete-game performance.
Willingham was indeed in control as he scattered four hits and walked one while hitting two. He finished with 11 strikeouts.
The only run he allowed came in the fourth inning.
Catcher Jess Elledge received a two-out walk and stole second. Willingham turned and made a throw to second in a pickoff attempt, but the throw was wide and Elledge raced all the way home on the error.
"That was a pretty good game," the 16-year-old sophomore said in perhaps the biggest understatement of the evening.
"I had a lot of adrenalin flowing, so it critical that I not let the emotion of the day get to me. Everything was going my way tonight, but I was feeling it when I woke up this morning. Keeping my composure throughout the game is what got me through it," he added.
The Bucs took the lead in the top of the fourth and never looked back.
Freshman Cade Evans, who may be the toughest out in the Chattanooga and for sure the best hitter with two strikes, once again set the pace with three hits and a walk in four at-bats. It was his leadoff single in the fourth that got the Buccaneer offense going as he scored when Nathan Murrell doubled off the fence in center.
The Pirates third error of the game allowed the Buc second baseman to score the second run without a play at the plate.
Evans was again involved in the next inning as his double drove in Jim Cardwell, who had reached on a two-out infield single.
Seth Rogers had a run-scoring double in the sixth while the final run came in the seventh when Murrell doubled again and Evans scored when a bad throw back to the infield missed its target.
The Bucs don't have long to celebrate this region championship as they host Jackson County in a sectional matchup on Friday at 5. The winner then advances to the state tournament, which will be in Murfreesboro next week.
"That was a fun game," said Boyd-Buchanan coach Josh Rider after his team had improved to 27-9 with their 25th win in their last 27 games.
"We still have a ways to go as we have to be ready to play tomorrow at 5. South Pittsburg is a tough opponent and it took a while for our bats to get going. The key was not being too tight.
"Brandon has been our workhorse this year and he was filling up the strike zone tonight. He pitched pretty well," the coach concluded with a note of praise.
South Pittsburg coach Wes Stone was quick to point out that the Bucs are a very good baseball team.
"Those guys over there have great talent. They hit it better than we did and they made a few more plays. They deserved to win this game. We'll get back over the hump one of these days, but there are a lot of teams who would love to trade places with us," he added.
Logan Alder was the starter and loser for the Pirates after giving up three runs on five hits in five innings. Brady Petty pitched the final two innings and gave up the last three runs on four hits, but the damage had already been done before he took over.
Evans had three hits to lead the Boyd-Buchanan attack while Murrell had those two doubles. Rogers had his double while Colby Morgan, Hunter Payne and Cardwell all had a single.
McKenna Blevins was the only Pirate with two hits. Petty had a bad-hop single in the fourth while Jess Morrison had South Pittsburg's only other hit, a single in the sixth.
The Pirates are now 24-11 and will travel to Goodpasture on Friday.
BOYD-BUCHANAN 000 212 1 -- 6 9 2
SOUTH PITTSBURG 000 100 0 -- 1 4 6
Willingham and Antwine; Alder, Petty (6) and Elledge.
(Email John Hunt at nomarathonmoose@Comcast.net)