Soddy-Daisy baseball coach Jared Hensley has no doubt who the best pitcher in District 5-AAA has been this season.
Amos proved Hensley’s point Tuesday against East Hamilton in the district tournament loser’s bracket final.
The smooth-throwing right-hander, unbeaten and with an ERA below 1.00, pitched out of a bases-loaded, no out jam in the seventh inning and preserved Soddy-Daisy’s 3-2 victory that advanced the Trojans to Wednesday afternoon’s championship game against Bradley Central.
With the bases jammed with Hurricanes, Amos struck out Nicholas Woods and Hunter Owen and induced a 6-4 fielder’s choice from Nick Fahler to seal the hard-fought win at Ooltewah High’s A.C. “Bud” Ball Field.
“I think that performance, and all of us already knew it, solidified the fact that Christian Amos has a great heart,” Trojans coach Jared Hensley said. “He’s had an unbelievable year. There’s no doubt in my mind, and I know I’m biased, that Christian is the best pitcher in our league.”
The Trojans (20-15) and Bradley Central (20-11) clash Wednesday at 4 p.m. for the championship and home-field advantage for the Region 3-AAA semifinals. Soddy-Daisy would have to beat the Bears twice to win the title.
The “if necessary” game would be played 30 minutes after the first.
The loss ended East Hamilton’s season at 22-14. The Hurricanes went into the tournament as the regular-season champion and No. 1 seed.
“This loss was heartbreaking for our kids,” Hurricanes coach Steve Garland said. “Christian Amos was outstanding. What’s so remarkable is that you see a lot of pitchers with good stuff, but he’s got great character because he didn’t flinch in an incredibly pressure-packed situation.”
Garland, the former Soddy-Daisy baseball coach, felt good about his team’s chances to pull out a win after Garett Stone singled, Hunter Parker doubled and Matt Milita was hit by a pitch to load the bases to start the seventh.
But Hensley had one thought running through his mind as East Hamilton pitcher Nicholas Woods, a promising freshman, came to the plate.
“I didn’t want anybody else in the game in that situation other than Christian,” Hensley said.
So, he stuck with Amos.
And why not?
“He’s given up only two earned runs this season and East Hamilton got both of them,” Hensley said. “In fact, the only runs he’s allowed have been against East Hamilton. I was sitting there thinking as much as I wanted him in the game, if it doesn’t go our way he certainly deserved better. A moment like that for him was unbelievable.”
The senior, who recently committed to Cleveland State Community College, is now -0 with a miniscule 0.56 ERA.
East Hamilton’s runs came in the third when Parker doubled and Woods singled him home and the sixth when Hunter Owen singled, Fahler doubled and Quinn Griffith’s squeeze bunt scored Owen.
Soddy-Daisy came up with single runs in the second and third.
In the second, Gavin Rogers doubled and Caden Ricketts’ single produced the game’s first run. Tre Carter singled in the third, stole second and eventually scored on Austin Hickey’s sacrifice fly.
What proved to be the game winner came in the top of the sixth when Ricketts walked, moved to third on an infield error and scored on Cale Morgan’s clutch double.
“Our guys really battled,” Garland said, “and I was pleased with their effort. Nicholas Woods kept us in the game and Matty Henshaw pitched the seventh. When you hold a good-hitting team to three runs, you probably feel good about your chances.
“But they had Amos. I’m happy for Jared and those guys on that staff up there. I coached those guys. It hurts bad for our guys because they laid it on the line and fought through adversity the entire season.”
Hensley feels for Garland.
“I wouldn’t be coaching at Soddy-Daisy if not for Steve,” he said. “This win is bitter sweet.”
Soddy-Daisy 011 001 0 – 3 7 2
East Hamilton 001 001 0 – 2 7 1
Amos and Clift; Woods, Henshaw (7) and Fahler.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @larryfleming44)