MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – McCallie lost the first Division II-AA state baseball title game to Memphis University School on Thursday, but the Blue Tornado had something in the second showdown the Owls didn’t.
Dockery fired a complete-game, four-hit shutout, McCallie (27-11) scored five second-inning runs and cruised to an 8-0 victory to claim its first state championship in 38 years.
“As a player and coach I’ve dreamed of being a part of something like this,” McCallie coach Greg Payne said. “And to do it at McCallie is an unbelievable feeling. It’s hard to find the words for this.”
MUS raced to a nine-run lead and held on for a 10-7 win in the opening game at Middle Tennessee State University’s Jerry Reese Jr. Stadium to force the second contest.
Dockery, who went six innings on Tuesday in the Blue Tornado’s 3-2 tournament-opening win over Memphis Christian Brothers, was McCallie’s ace-in-the-hole starter after the team used five pitchers in the opener played before a small crowd on a bright, sunny afternoon.
“Our kids didn’t quit in the first game and scored six runs to make it respectable,” Payne said. “We really wanted to get into their bullpen, but they stuck with their starter (Hugh Fisher) and that sent a strong message that they didn’t have anybody else.
“And I think the key to the second game was what happened late in the first game when we scored those runs, which is a pretty tough thing to do. We seized the momentum and used that in the second game.”
Thomas Boals and Christian Burnett each had run-scoring singles, Tyler Payne contributed a bunt single to drive in a run and John Hennen added a sacrifice fly and two more runs scored on an ensuing throwing error by center fielder Colton Neel.
“It was classic small-ball that we forced on them and they didn’t make some plays,” Payne said. “That’s exactly what we needed. To score five runs with Elliott on the mound was great for us. He pitched great and let it all hang out despite pitching on short rest.”
The Owls committed three errors in the inning and McCallie took advantage of those miscues.
Dockery, a senior, struck out eight and walked two in his sterling title-winning performance.
Winston Whitener walked and stole second, Ethan Cady struck out and Drew Vaugh, the first-game starter, flied out. Whitener stole third and William Korn stroked a run-scoring single to right, giving McCallie a 6-0 cushion.
Vaughn started the two-run sixth with a single and Korn moved him over with a sacrifice bunt. Tyson Buchanan singled to right to score Vaughn. Buchanan went to second on a balk and scored when Boals reached on an infield error.
That put a golden finish on the Blue Tornado season and added a state championship plaque in the trophy case – the team’s first since 1976.
“We had our backs to the wall several times this year,” Payne said. “Pope John Paul swept us in our first East/Middle Region three-game series (by a combined 28-17). Then we win 13 of 14 region games. Then Baylor sweeps us in a three-game series (by scores of 2-1, 4-3 and 12-0) and Briarcrest beat us 7-0 and we’re one loss from being eliminated from the playoffs.”
The Blue Tornado rebounded to beat Briarcrest in the final two games of the crucial series and earned the final spot in the state tournament.
And the final back-against-the-wall situation came earlier on Thursday when MUS put the Blue Tornado on the brink of elimination after going into the championship day having won two straight games – beating CBHS and Baylor.
“The kids know how to battle back,” said Payne, who has been at McCallie 11 years. “Today we lost all the equity of our good start to the tournament, but this is the most resilient team I’ve ever been associated with.
MUS (24-16), which has now finished runner-up four times in the last five years, used a six-run fifth inning – all the runs were unearned – to pull away in the opener, stretching a 3-1 lead into a 9-1 advantage.
Four of the runs came after two were out.
Fitzsimmons, A.J. Hunt and Blake Bennett each had RBI singles. Colton Neel and Seth Young each drew bases-loaded walks and Neel, batting for the second time in the inning, pushed a run across after being hit by a pitch.
McCallie used three pitchers – Cole Songer, Tons Ferguson and Carson McKoon – to get out of the disastrous inning.
The Blue Tornado late-game surge resulted in three sixth-inning runs on Hennen’s two-run double and a RBI single by Christian Burnett.
In the seventh, Burnett stroked a two-run single up the middle and Hennen’s hit drove in another run. Hennen had four RBIs in the game.
University School 010 261 0 – 10 13 2
McCallie 100 003 0 – 4 5 3
Fisher and Hunt, Harris (6); Vaughn, Steventon (4), Songer (5), Ferguson (5), McKoon (5) and Smith.
McCallie 051 002 0 – 8 8 2
University School 000 000 0 – 0 4 5
Dockery and Burnett; Bennett, White (4) and Hunt.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @larryfleming44)