By Thomas Sellers Jr.
MURFREESBORO – Destination Mufreesboro became reality for the Tipton-Rosemark Academy Rebels Thursday morning.
Before the start of the 10 a.m. Division II-A State Baseball championship game against the University School of Jackson Bruins, Brad Smith’s squad arrived to the campus of Middle Tennessee State University.
Since conditioning in the fall, Rebel Baseball players set the goal to reach this point and this site. But after dropping Tuesday’s first round game to Knoxville Webb in LaVergne, TRA had to rally to reach the championship game.
After victories over Battle Ground Academy and Webb in the rematch, the Rebels were finalist and taking on USJ for the title. TRA got off to a hot start in the championship game with a four-spot.
But the Bruins settled down and regrouped to hold TRA scoreless the rest of the way. Meanwhile USJ scored a run in six straight inning to prevail 8-4 and earn the school’s third championship.
“We didn’t make plays or swing the bats,” Smith acknowledged. “We came out and swung it in the first. Then we didn’t do much after that.
“We didn’t make the plays we needed to,” he added. “Early in the game, we made some defensive mistakes. That’s a part of baseball. But you can’t make them in big time games in big time situations like this.”
The State runner up finish is the second in TRA history with this year’s team joining the 2009 club. At that time Smith was establishing a winning culture.
Fast forward 5 years later the Rebels are a respected program not only in West Tennessee but across the Volunteer State.
TRA reached the State Tournament in 2012 and this year saw the Rebels earn a No. 1 seed in the regular season for Regionals.
Smith guided the Rebels to the school’s first Region Tournament championship. Then in Sub-State TRA sweep Davidson Academy 2-1 and 7-2.
“They’re warriors,” Smith said of his players. “They just compete. They’re very coachable kids that believed in what we asked them to do as coaches. We didn’t get the results I wanted today. But I couldn’t be any prouder of a group of kids I’ve coached in my 15 years than I am of this group right here.
“They do the little things,” he continued. “They’re just fun to be a part of. It’s been an enjoyable year. I wish it turned out a little bit better, but it didn’t. We didn’t earn it today and we got beat.”
As Smith processed his thoughts before addressing the 2014 Rebels one more time outside of the playing surface of the MTSU Baseball Stadium, he left the field knowing his players are winners.
“I’ve told you all year and I told you last fall, this group here is special,”he concluded. “They just have the heart of a champion. Although we’re not champions today, they will be in real life.”