By Thomas Sellers Jr.
LA VERGNE — A special season doesn’t end in two games at the Division II-A State Baseball Tournament.
All season Tipton-Rosemark Academy Rebel Head Coach Brad Scott has felt something divine about his 2014 club. Since this fall’s Murfreesboro Challenge to the victory in the Regional and Sub-State championship games, Scott had said this group of Rebels are special.
The validation came Wednesday when TRA survived two games to reach the championship game. After dropping their opener Tuesday, the Rebels face do-or-die games in the loser’s bracket.
“We knew we had to come out and do the things we’ve been doing all year,” Rebel senior outfielder Blain Curtis said. “We came out in the first game with some pressure. Today we went out there and relaxed. We knew we had to win two ball games.”
TRA ace Connor Alexander helped the Rebels win their first game in the State Tournament. Then a few hours later the Rebels had to return to the LaVergne High School Field to take on the Knoxville Webb Spartans.
Behind a clutch triple from Curtis, TRA prevailed 7-3 and advanced to Thursday’s title game against the University School of Jackson.
Webb beat the Rebels in the first game sending TRA to the loser’s bracket. The Rebels learned for their errors in that game and kept their composure throughout the seven innings.
TRA jumped out 1-0 when Logan Stewart drove in Alexander, who doubled to reach base. The Rebels padded their advantage in the fourth inning with a rally sparked by a Jacob LaFosse walk.
Gil Erwin followed with a base hit and two batters later starting pitcher Nathan Whitley singled.
With the bases loaded and two outs, Rebel Houston Hall reached base on an error and a run scored to make the tally 2-0.
Up to the plate next was Curtis.
“He had thrown me two or three curve balls,’ Curtis recalled. “So I kind of knew what to expect. I got one and drove it down the line and it was 5-0.”
Curtis flew around the bases ending up on third base. Whitley got the run support he needed pitching four scoreless innings.
“Nathan Whitley did a hack of a job for us today,” Smith said. “Especially for not having a start in the last three weeks. We’ve been throwing Connor and then Gil, Connor then Gil with the formats. I wanted four innings out of him today and Nathan did a great job.”
Once Whitley started to tire some, Smith called in Erwin to close out the win. Allowing three runs to the Spartans, Erwin got enough support to hold on to the victory.
The Rebels scored twice in the fifth inning to make the score 7-0. LaFosse brought home a run with a sacrifice bunt. Then senior Xen Penny drove in the final Rebel run with a single.
Once Erwin recorded the final out in the seventh inning it was time to celebrate a spot in the State Championship game to be played in Murfreesboro on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University.
“I felt we would be able to play at the State Championship site if we play an elite ball game,” Smith said. “Now we have an opportunity to play for the championship. Two teams will take the field. One will win it and one will walk away with their heads a little low.
“I’m real proud of our guys for sticking it through,” he concluded.. “We took the tough and hard road to get here. USJ came up here and played two great ball game in route to the game.”