MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – For the second-straight year, the Baylor Red Raider baseball team went through the TSSAA Division II-Class AA state baseball tournament without losing a game.
And for the second-straight year, they won a state title at Reese Smith Jr. Field on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University.
This year’s Baylor team wasn’t quite as explosive as last year, but they were clearly head and shoulders better than anyone else in the field as they improved to 27-6 with Thursday’s 4-2 victory over the Christian Brothers Purple Wave.
Baylor had beaten Christian Brothers 3-0 in Wednesday’s winners’ bracket final while the Purple Wave beat Ensworth later in the day to earn Thursday’s championship opportunity.
“That took my breath away,” exclaimed Baylor co-head coach Greg Elie after his team dumped a cooler of ice water on his head following their latest win.
“That was exciting and it feels so good, but it was a hard-fought game and we knew that Christian Brothers would battle. Colin Ahearn pitched a gem and was able to get another big win. That’s what it’s all about,” Elie added.
Baylor broke a scoreless tie with a single run in the bottom of the third, but it was a three-run fifth that sealed the deal as the Purple Wave countered with single runs in the sixth and seventh innings.
Gehrig Ebel and Danny Corona both walked to lead off the Baylor third before Cooper Kinney reached on an error to load the bases. Christian Martin’s fly to left drove in courtesy runner Ivan Reap with the Red Raiders first run.
Kinney led off the fifth with a single before Martin doubled to deep left to put runners on second and third with nobody out. Nick Kurtz walked to load the bases before Ahearn drove in the first run with a single. Taylor Shahan then ripped a two-run single for what turned out to be the winning runs.
Christian Brothers got a sacrifice fly from Avery Hastings to score its first run with pitcher Ryne Kreitz scoring. Then in the seventh, Reid Voss reached on a one-out error and went to second following a walk to Miles McCullar before scoring on a single up the middle by Ben Brocato.
There were runners on the corners at this point with one out. Gage Johnson, who had come on in relief of Ahearn to start the seventh, walked Chris Marable to load the bases, but struck out Hastings swinging to end the game.
“I was just hoping to help keep us going in the fifth inning, but it feels awesome to win another state title. I’m so glad we were able to repeat,” said Shahan following the game.
Ahearn pitched his usual outstanding game and gave a lot of credit to his battery-mate Ebel for calling a great game.
“We just needed to win one game today, but I felt confident with all of my pitches and Gehrig called a great game. That three-run inning was huge. I was starting to get a little tired in the sixth, but it feels so good to come out on top,” the 17-year-old junior from Lakefield, Massachusetts added.
Christian Brothers coach Buster Kelso has won more than his share of state titles with the Purple Wave and he had said earlier in the week that Baylor was by far the best team in this year’s tournament, but he had his team believing in themselves and they came up just a bit short on the final day of the season.
“We had a chance there at the end as we showed a lot of heart today,” Kelso said afterward.
“We thought we had a chance to win today’s game as we didn’t give anything away, but I’m proud of the way my kids played,” he nodded.
CHRISTIAN BROTHERS 000 001 1 – 2 6 2
BAYLOR 001 030 x – 4 6 1
Cook, Lyons (3), Kreitz (3) and Spiotta, Marable (4); Ahearn, Johnson (7) and Ebel.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)