(This story has been updated with Region 3-AAA pairings)
Bradley Central’s Austin Calfee came up big in a pinch.
Calfee’s bases-loaded, pinch-hit, run-scoring single through the left side scored Brett Standifer in the seventh inning with the game’s only run and Bradley Central edged gutty Soddy-Daisy, 1-0, on Wednesday to capture the District 5-AAA tournament championship at A.C. “Bud” Ball Field at Ooltewah High.
With a nice crowd on hand enjoying a terrific pitching duel and solid prep baseball on a crystal clear, hot afternoon, the second-seeded Bears finished their run to the title behind Ty King’s three-hit shutout.
“All year long Austin has been our fourth outfielder,” Bears coach Travis Adams said. “If someone is slumping at the plate or not playing well in the field, he’s our guy. I had all the confidence in the world in Austin. When his number is called he looks like a kid who’s been there.
“That was pretty clutch.”
Both teams advance to the Region 3-AAA semifinals on Monday.
Bradley (21-11) will be at home against Cookeville (27-8) while the Trojans (20-16) hit the road to play Warren County (17-21).
Warren County upset Cookeville, 8-3, on Thursday night to win the District 6-AAA championship.
“We start a one-game season on Monday,” Adams said, referring to the fact that each game in the region and sectional round will be win-or-go-home challenges. “Getting to host a game is a big deal.”
Said Calfee, “Any time we play at Bradley we’re a much better team.”
King is 7-0 on the season and went into Wednesday’s game with a 0.54 ERA. He has 84 strikeouts in 61 innings.
The lanky right-hander threw 108 pitches – 66 for strikes – and worked out of a tough jam in the top of the seventh before the Bears ended it a few minutes later.
“I felt pretty good and was in the zone most of the time,” King said. “I was throwing my fastball for strikes and using a curve to keep them off balance. This feels really great because I think we work harder than anybody else.”
Logan Blackwell led off the Bears’ seventh with a single up the middle. Jordan Timmons put down a sacrifice bunt, but Trojans third baseman Andy Wright’s throw to second was in the dirt and both runners were safe.
Soddy-Daisy coach Jared Hensley pulled starter Colin Kearney, who went into the seventh with a three-hit shutout of his own, and Oz Perez came on to retire Tanner Cox on a pop to the mound.
Perez hit pinch-hitter Tyler Carpenter to load the bases and Calfee, batting for Cal Pickel, hit a 2-2 pitch into left field just beyond the reach of shortstop Justin Cooke for the game-winner.
“I knew the way both teams were pitching the game might come down to one hit or one mistake,” Calfee said. “I’ve pinch-hit quite a few times, probably once a game, throughout the season. I did against East Hamilton with a man on third and tied the game with a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning, but this one really felt good.”
Kearney, a sophomore righty making his second mound appearance of the season, threw six strong innings, limiting the Bears to Cox’s single in the second and Hunter Rogers’ double in the fourth. He struck out two and walked two.
“Before the game I told him to give me the best three innings he’s ever pitched,” Hensley said of Kearney. “He gave me six.”
Kearney, whose other start came against Cookeville in the Soddy-Daisy tournament in mid-April, did his best to continue the Trojans’ march through the tournament over the last four days that included three consecutive one-run wins – one decided by Dev DeMatteo’s 11th-inning walk-off home run on Sunday – before the loss to Bradley in the title game.
“I wanted to go out there and pitch as hard as I could for as long as I could,” Kearney said. “When I saw that hit go through the infield I was very upset, but there was nothing more we could do about it.”
Kearney kept the Bears from any serious scoring threats – he allowed just four base runners – until running into trouble in the seventh.
“They get a single to center and we botch a bunt play and I went with Oz, who has been reliable for us,” Hensley said. “They came up with the big hit and good for them. Colin did more than you could ask for.
“We came out to have fun and breathe a little bit. We wanted to win the tournament and play at home, but after our last 72 hours we’re willing to walk anywhere we have to go and play.”
While Kearney was stifling the Bears, King had a stranglehold on the Trojans’ offense as well.
King retired the first eight before Tre Carter beat out an infield single in the third and hit DeMatteo. King struck out Hickey to end that threat.
In the fourth, Gavin Rogers drew a one-out walk and Caden Ricketts lashed a two-out single up the middle. King escaped that bit of diamond peril by striking out Grant Cordell on three pitches.
King fanned Justin Cooke and Carter to start the fifth ahead of DeMatteo’s single. Hickey hit into an inning-ending fielder’s choice. The Trojans went down in order in the sixth.
With one out Cordell reached on Cox’s throwing error that pulled first baseman Jacob Barnes off the base. Cooke walked. Cale Morgan was about to pinch-hit for Carter in the nine-slot.
“He was up around 100 pitches and I asked him if he wanted this last hitter,” Adams said. “He wanted him.”
Morgan flied out to center to end the game.
Soddy-Daisy 000 000 0 – 0 3 1
Bradley Central 000 000 1 – 1 4 1
Kearney, Perez (7) and Timmons; King and Cordell.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @larryfleming44)