It wasn’t the hardest ball Bradley Central’s Logan Blackwell has ever hit.
It may have been, however, the best-placed single of his career.
Blackwell blooped a single into shallow right field in the sixth inning to drive in the go-ahead run and the second-seeded Bears went on to edge No. 3-seed Soddy-Daisy, 6-4, on Saturday in the District 5-AAA baseball tournament before a large, sun-baked crowd at Ooltewah's A.C. “Bud” Ball Field.
“It was an outside pitch and I just went with it,” said Blackwell, who flied out in each of his three previous at-bats. “You have to play the game as it plays out and hope to get the job done.”
The scratch-and-claw victory shoves the Bears (19-11) into Sunday’s winner’s bracket final against top-seed East Hamilton (22-13) at 7 p.m. in the last of three games on a rare Sunday schedule.
In Saturday’s second game, No. 6 Walker Valley routed No. 7 McMinn County, 10-0, to stay alive in the tournament. The Mustangs (11-19) will play Ooltewah (17-13) at 4 p.m. while Soddy-Daisy (17-15) takes on Cleveland at 1 p.m. to get the rare Sunday action started.
Bradley coach Travis Adams used three pitchers – Brett Standifer, Seth Lee and Chandler Hamilton – to quell the scrappy Trojans (17-15).
“The early part of the game was like a boxing match,” Adams said. “You’ve got to get some two-out hits and play defense. But the kids didn’t panic when we got down there in the third inning. We stayed with the process and I was proud the way they fought.
“Brett didn’t have his good stuff, but gave us a chance to win. Seth did his job as a set-up guy and Chandler shut the door.”
Soddy-Daisy coach Jared Hensley also used three hurlers – Ryan Mahaffey, Gavin Rogers and Oz Perez – to stay in the game.
Neither staff dominated, but Hamilton came close by retiring four of five, including two strikeouts in the seventh, and picked up the win.
Rogers took the tough loss.
The two teams combined to hit seven batters – the Trojans plunked four – and nine walks. Bradley’s Duggan walked three times, scoring once and left stranded at third on two other occasions.
“I asked coach Adams midway through the fourth if we could swap and be the home team,” Trojans coach Jared Hensley said, “because I thought the team with the last crack would win the game.”
Bradley’s first three runs were the direct result of two hit batters and a bases-loaded walk.
The Trojans scored three in the third to go ahead 3-1. Austin Hickey walked, Dillon Clift was hit by a pitch and Rogers and Andy Wright delivered RBI singles. Rogers eventually scored on the first of two Bradley errors.
It was not a routine sequence at all.
With runners on first and third, courtesy runner Levi Thornton stole second as Wright foul tipped a pitch into the catcher Jordan Timmons’ mitt. Thinking it was a foul ball – or maybe a player said it was a foul ball – Thornton jogged back toward first. The throw was in time to get Thornton, but first baseman Jacob Barnes dropped the ball and Rogers scored from third on the miscue.
After Bradley tied the game at 3, the Trojans had an answer.
Christian Amos reached on shortstop Tanner Cox’s error and moved to second and third on a sacrifice bunt and wild pitch. Dev DeMatteo’s groundout scored Cox to give Soddy-Daisy a 4-3 lead.
The Bears tied the game in the fifth on pinch-hitter Austin Calfee’s sacrifice fly.
Baylor Terrell walked and Barnes was hit by a pitch. Both runners moved up on Rogers’ sacrifice bunt. Oz Perez relieved Seth Lee, who came on for Standifer in the fifth inning, and gave up Blackwell’s run-scoring Texas leaguer to right.
Barnes, who went to third on Blackwell’s clutch hit, scored on catcher Kyler Lynn’s sacrifice fly to center, giving the Bears a two-run cushion.
Hamilton yielded a Hickey single to start the Trojans’ seventh, but struck out Clift and Perez and induced Wright’s game-ending groundout.
The Bears scored half their runs with two out on two hit batters and a sacrifice fly.
“We did a good job getting two outs, but couldn’t get out of the inning,” Hensley said. “It is what it is.”
Now, the Trojans are in a bind.
“We have to win three in a row to get out of this thing (district tournament),” Hensley said. “It’s going to be a battle and we’ll see what we’re made of.”
Walker Valley 10, McMinn County 0: John Simmons’ three-run double highlighted the Mustangs’ six-run second inning.
Walker Valley added four runs in the fifth – it scored twice when back-to-back hitters were hit by pitches – to end the game due to the TSSAA mercy rule.
McMinn County ends its season with an 11-18 record.
Soddy-Daisy 003 100 0 – 4 6 0
Bradley Central 012 012 x – 6 5 2
Mahaffey, Rogers (5), Perez (6) and Clift; Standifer, Lee (5), Hamilton (6) and Timmons, Lynn (5).
McMinn County 000 00 – 0 4 3
Walker Valley 060 04 – 10 5 2
WP – Kyle Goins.
LP – Jake White.
Cleveland vs. Soddy-Daisy, 1 p.m.
Ooltewah vs. Walker Valley, 4 p.m.
Bradley Central vs. East Hamilton, 7 p.m.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @larryfleming44)