LEBANON, Tenn. – Baylor and McCallie swept Memphis opponents Tuesday night in the Division II-AA state baseball tournament at Wilson Central High School.
The Red Raiders (23-10) got a four-hit shutout from freshman Gavin Roberson and two bases-loaded walks in a 2-0 victory over University School.
The Blue Tornado (26-10) got past defending champion Christian Brothers, 3-2, behind the strong four-hit pitching of Elliott Dockery.
The long-time Chattanooga rivals now square off on Wednesday in the winner’s bracket final at 1:30 p.m., again at Wilson Central, located about 30 miles north of Murfreesboro on Highway 840.
“That’s never happened in the state tournament,” Baylor coach Gene Etter said. “In our regular season series they were the top team in our region and we swept them in a three-game series. From their viewpoint, they’ve got a chance to wipe out those three games with a win against us tomorrow.”
McCallie coach Greg Payne said he wasn’t thinking so much about Baylor as paying close attention to his own team.
“We always try to focus on what us rather than who we’re playing,” Payne said. “If we do the things well that we do well we’ll be fine against anybody we play. While Baylor has gotten hot in recent games, we still have to focus on us.”
Payne said he will start Tyler Payne in Wednesday’s game.
Etter was fretting over who he would pitch in the second round after hearing “bad news” from Andrew Belcher.
“Andrew hurt his shoulder and he told me tonight he didn’t think he could pitch (Wednesday),” the veteran Red Raiders coach said. “He wasn’t himself the last game he pitched against Pope John Paul in the opening game of that series.”
The Red Raiders and Tornado played well Wednesday.
Roberson, a diminutive 5-foot-6, 127-pound right-hander with a sneaky fastball and tantalizing breaking ball, was brilliant against the Owls while striking out four and walking two.
“That’s my game,” said Roberson, who is from Ringgold, Ga. “I don’t overpower anybody and just place my pitches and throw as many groundballs as possible. I’ve had a size disadvantage my whole life, but I’ve learned to deal with it.”
University School never solved Roberson’s pitches, although Baylor’s defense came up with some solid plays behind the youngster.
And Roberson tuned up for his state tournament debut by saving two games and winning another in a starting role in the McCallie series. And when Pope John Paul beat Baylor in a series opener, Roberson won the second game and the Red Raiders won Game 3 to take the series 2-1.
That made Etter’s decision to start Roberson against MUS much easier.
“I’m going to throw the guy who is doing the best regardless of what grade he might be in,” Etter said. “Gavin was our best pitcher in preseason and pitched a great game against Mt. Juliet in our first game of the season in the Scenic City Classic.
“Then there was a stretch where he struggled and I took him out of the rotation because he lost his location. Since he got a second chance he’s been money in the bank.”
Baylor catcher Blake Layne said Roberson was on his game against the Owls.
“He threw an excellent game,” Layne said. “He was locating well and that’s what you expect from him. He won’t overpower people, but he will kill them with accuracy.”
Baylor scored the game’s only two runs in the third inning.
Hunter Holland and Alex Armstrong drew bases-loaded walks to force in the runs.
“Both of those walks were on 3-2 counts and with two outs,” Etter said. “Both those hitters deserve credit for being disciplined at the plate.”
Baylor had only four hits off left-hander Colton Neel, who was hurt with nine walks.
Dockery was working on a shutout through five innings, but was roughed up for two runs in the sixth after the Blue Tornado went up 3-0 with two runs in the fifth.
Coach Payne decided to bring in Tyler Payne to pitch the seventh. Payne retired the Owls in order, including one strikeout, to get the save.
“Christian Brothers is the defending state champion (the Owls have won 11 state titles, six since 2000), with a lot of tradition and a lot of college prospects, and we needed to play nearly a flawless game and we almost did that,” Greg Payne said. “I was very pleased with our execution.”
McCallie broke through against Neel for a run in the fourth.
Christian Burnett led off with a double and Tons Ferguson came in to run for him. Ferguson eventually scored from third on Drew Vaughn’s squeeze bunt.
In the fifth, Spencer Morgan reached on an error, John Hennen ripped a RBI triple and Burnett, on a 10-pitch at-bat, has a sacrifice fly to give McCallie a 3-0 lead.
Burnett and Winston Whitener each had two hits for the Blue Tornado.
Now McCallie turns its attention to Wednesday’s game.
“We have to play better against them than the last time,” Payne said.
Christian Brothers 000 002 0 – 2 4 0
McCallie 000 120 x – 3 7 0
Durham and Grisanti; Dockery, Payne (7) and Burnett.
University School 000 000 0 – 0 4 1
Baylor 002 000 x – 2 3 0
Neel and Hunt; Roberson and Layne.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @larryfleming44)