Bradley Central erupted for an impressive 15-3 victory over Cookeville to claim the Region 3-3A baseball championship on Wednesday.
The run production mated a season-high for the Bears (24-11). They scored 15 runs twice against Cannoniers Canada and Martin County, Florida, in a baseball event at Cocoa Beach, Florida to kick off the season.
Bradley went into Wednesday’s game not having scored in double digits since getting 10 against Notre Dame on April 20 in the Soddy-Daisy Trojan Classic, a string of eight games.
The Bears move on to the sectional on Friday night and host Stewarts Creek at 7 p.m. The Red Hawks (18-15) lost to Siegel (27-7) by a 5-4 score in the Region 4-3A title game on Tuesday. Cookeville (23-7) will play at Siegel on Friday.
Bradley lost to Stewarts Creek, 1-0, in the 2016 sectionals and hasn’t reached the state tournament since 2007. The Bears’ only state title came in 1994 when Greg Geren was Bradley's coach. Joe Adams, current coach Travis Adams' father, was an assistant on that staff after retiring as head coach a year earlier.
“I kept saying we’d have an inning sooner or later,” Travis Adams said. “We get a catcher’s interference call in the fifth and once we got going we kept it going. We were hitting home runs and balls off the walls in those two big innings.”
Against the District 6-3A champion Cavaliers, the Bears wiped out a 3-0 deficit with an eight-run fifth inning and seven-run sixth, which ended the game due to the TSSAA mercy rule.
Shortstop Pete Williams paced the Bears’ offensive outburst with a 4-for-5 effort that included a two-run double to trigger the big fifth inning. Andy Bunch had two hits, with a three-run homer in the sixth and drove in five runs. Caden Sherlin, Dylan Standifer and Preston Tayor also collected two hits.
Blaze Benton gave up a three-run homer in the first inning, but settled down and allowed just two more hits the rest of the game.
“Blaze had a rough start, but he’s a senior and settled in the rest of the way,” Adams said. “He only gave up the two hits after the first inning and picked a guy off base. We asked him to figure it out and he did. I couldn’t be prouder of Blaze. Cookeville is a good team and he was having to rely on a fastball and got behind in the count.
“Nobody panicked at all; we came back and we’ll get ready to play Stewarts Creek on Friday.”
Benton finished with a five-hitter and struck out five and walked four. He threw 115 pitches, 66 for strikes, and faced 26 batters.
Bradley Central 000 087 – 15 14 1
Cookeville 300 000 – 3 5 2
(Contact Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @larryfleming44)