Virgil L. Grissom High’s baseball did accomplished exactly what it wanted to do in Chattanooga this weekend.
The hard-charging Tigers rolled past Boyd-Buchanan, 9-3, Saturday night before a good – and cold -- crowd and captured the Pounder Classic baseball tournament title in impressive fashion.
On a night when the wind chill factor hit 36 in the sixth inning, Grissom completed its Sherman-like march through the three-day tournament by winning five straight games – they never once trailed – and stretched their overall winning streak to seven.
The Tigers now return to their league play on a high note and brimming with confidence.
“We have a lot of appreciation for Central coach Glen Carter inviting us to the tournament,” said Tigers coach Cory Hamrick, who is about midway through his first year at Grissom.
“We’re actually lucky to get the chance to play up here. I had been looking for a spring trip and (Soddy-Daisy coach) Jared Hensley and I played college ball together and he told me about this tournament. It was nearly November before we found out for sure we were in and that was really late for us.”
On March 25, Grissom played at Soddy-Daisy and walked away with a 9-6 win.
Even if Hamrick and the Pounder Classic arranged a deal late, it couldn’t have worked out any better for Grissom and the tournament. The Tigers brought a strong contingent of fans to every game and they left plenty of money all around town.
And Grissom took home some nice hardware.
Grissom steamrolled its first three opponents – Harmony (Fla.), Annisdale (Canada) and Silverdale by a combined score of 43-3, run-ruling all three teams. When it was all over, the Tigers outscored five foes 57-8, averaged 11.4 runs per game with an average margin of victory of 9.8 runs.
Earlier Saturday, the Tigers got past host Central, 5-2, to nail down a spot in the championship game, representing Pool A. The five runs against the Pounders was the Tigers’ tourney-low run production.
In Pool B, Boyd-Buchanan also won four straight and earned the right to challenge the Tigers, who carry 32 players on their varsity roster, including 17 seniors.
The Bucs (7-6), who saw their seven-game winning streak end, came into the title showdown confident.
“We knew they were the real deal,” Bucs coach Josh Rider said. “But we weren’t intimidated. We came over here to win and played like it. I thought we played well, but left 10 runners on in the first five innings and you can’t do that and expect to win.”
As is their routine, the Tigers jumped out to a quick lead.
Ryan Sivak drew a walk from Bucs starter Skyler Anderson. Justin Foscue struck out and Palmer Ford, who hit his first homer of the season against Central, walked. Josh Sears’ single to right pushed across the game’s first run.
Anderson needed 29 pitches to get out of the first. He didn’t fare much better in the second.
The Bucs’ right-hander walked Ben Lucke and Jake Stamps. Bucs catcher Hunter Payne picked Lucke off second base. Andrew Schreiber doubled Stamps to third and Sivak drove him home with a single into shallow right field.
Ford followed with long two-run triple to center, pushing the Tigers’ lead to 4-0. Sears popped out to end the inning.
Anderson threw 27 pitches in that inning and got through the third with 11, giving him a three-inning total of 67.
In the third, Grissom right-fielder Chance Shawkey took a chance and hit Anderson’s first pitch over the left-field fence for his third homer of the season.
“I was going to swing at the first pitch anyway,” Shawkey said, “and he grooved right down the middle. I got it all.”
Anderson got out of the inning without further damage and gave way to Brandon Willingham to start the fourth – Willingham gave up a hit, but no runs.
The Tigers came back hard at Willingham an inning later.
Sears singled and was wild-pitched to second. Shawkey walked. So did Collin Wirick.
Bases loaded. None out.
That spelled trouble.
Lucke’s single scored Austin Mann, who was running for Sears.
Shawkey came home on a passed ball.
John Parker, running for Wirick, scored on Stamps’ sacrifice fly.
With two out, Sivak, seeing the infield playing deep, reached on a bunt single and Lucke scored to give the Tigers a comfortable 9-0 lead.
The championship trophy was clearly within Grissom’s grasp.
Hamrick called on reliever Jake Ralph to take over in the Bucs’ sixth inning.
Ralph walked Payne and pinch-hitter Seth Caudle and then Ralph really lost the strike zone, uncorking three wild pitches that scored two of the Bucs’ runs. Cade Evans, who also walked, went to second and third on the errant offerings and jogged home when second baseman Mann booted a groundball hit by Josh Antwine.
Ralph then retired three in a row.
Ben Manush pitched the seventh and closed the Bucs out.
“When you’re in a tournament you might face some good competition or lesser opponents,” Hamrick said. “We faced both here this weekend. My guys played well this week and we’re going home with a nice winning streak.
“Maybe we’ve got this snowball going downhill and it will become an avalanche.”
Sivak and Sears each went 2-for-3. Sivak scored twice.
Center fielder Colby Morgan went 2-for-4, both singles, to lead the Bucs’ five-hit attack.
“We pitched well and played good defense,” Rider said. “Finishing second in this tournament should be huge for us. We had a great weekend and found out who we are on the mound. Some of our bats came alive, too.
“We won’t face another team like Grissom when we get back to Class A ball.”
Boyd-Buchanan 000 003 0 – 3 5 1
Grissom 131 040 x – 9 7 6
Kokocha, Ralph (6), Manush (7) and Stamps; Anderson, Willingham (4) and Battery.
2015 Pounder Classic Results
Central, Fort Smith, Ark., Innisdale, Ontario, Canada, Cleveland, Harmony, Fla., Grissom, Ala.
Boyd-Buchanan, Sale Creek, Gwinette Barons, Ga., Hixson, Silverdale
Central 6, Harmony (Fla.) 2
Fort Smith (Ark.) 2, Central 0
Boyd-Buchanan 8, Cleveland 3
Grissom (Ala.) 10, Harmony (Fla.) 0
Hixson 11, Gwinette Christian (Ga.) 2
Gwinette Christian (Ga.) 12, Sale Creek 0
Silverdale 5, Innisdale (Canada) 1
Fort Smith 18, Innisdale 2
Fort Smith 13, Cleveland 11
Cleveland vs. Hixson, ppd.
Boyd-Buchanan 13, Sale Creek 2
Grissom 15, Innisdale 0
Grissom 18, Silverdale 3
Central 12, Innisdale (Canada) 1
Cleveland 10, Harmony (Fla.) 0
Grissom (Ala.) 5, Central 2
Southside (Ark.) 11, Harmony (Fla.) 5
Championship: Grissom 9, Boyd-Buchanan 3
Hixson 6, Sale Creek 5
Boyd-Buchanan 13, Hixson 4
Boyd-Buchanan 10, Gwinette (Ga.) 0
Cleveland 5, Hixson 0
Saturday at Silverdale
Gwinette 7, Silverdale 2
Silverdale 7, Sale Creek 1
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @larryfleming44)