Farragut wins region opener

KNOXVILLE — Farragut High School baseball coach Matt Buckner wasn’t quite sure if his team’s latest victory would score many style points and frankly, he didn’t really care.

“We won the game and that’s all that counts this time of year,” Buckner said after the Admirals claimed a 3-0 victory over Karns in the Region 2-AAA Semifinal at Karns High’s Coach Dwight Smith Field Monday night.

“We won and now we’re one win away from going to the State Tournament.

“At Farragut, we take those things for granted sometimes because we get there so much. But if we win, we’ll get to go to the state tournament.

Farragut (35-6) hosted Powell in the regional championship game Wednesday night at 6:30 at John Heatherly Field at The Ballpark at Farragut.

Both the Panthers (22-12) and the Admirals advanced to the state sectional round on Saturday by virtue of their respective victories Monday night. Powell also won on the road in the opening round of the region tournament when it outlasted defending Class AAA State Champion Hardin Valley Academy 2-1 in nine innings.

FHS scored three unearned runs in the top of the first inning and that would be all of the offense that the Admirals needed thanks to a stellar performance from senior starting pitcher Dylan Pacifico.

“I got a lead early and that really help,” said Pacifico, who hurled a complete game and kept the Beavers (30-9) at bay throughout the contest. “Nothing is easy this time of the year and they’re a good hitting team.

“I just let my defense do the work against the heart of their [batting] order.”

Karns catcher Tucker Pate was one of the county’s top hitters in 2016 and cleanup man Chris Norton and No. 5 hitter Carson Roush are among the area’s top run produces.

But on this night, that trio managed to go just 1-for-6 against Pacifico, who yielded just two hits and two walks against Karns, the District 3-AAA Champion. He finished the contest with eight strikeouts and ended the game when he got Josh Fielden to rap into a double play.

“He was special tonight,” Buckner said of Pacifico. “This isn’t his first rodeo. He won in the district tournament this year and he won two games in the state tournament last year.

“Tonight, he was all that I dreamed that he would be.”

Pacifico and Admirals got an early lead when Farragut scored three runs in the top of the first inning.

Senior center fielder Cole Morgan singled to lead off the game. Beavers sophomore starter Jared Culp struck out Duncan Pence before Jake Hagenow singled to put runners on first and second. Justen Freeman then reached on a fielder’s choice as Hagenow made the second out before Culp’s defense let him down.

Morgan scored the first run of the game when Carmelo Venero reached on an error. Freshman first baseman Parker Noland followed and reached on an error. Karns’ second defensive miscue of the inning allowed both Freeman and Venero to come home to make the score 3-0.

Morgan finished with three hits for Farragut, which has had its share of trouble scoring runs during the postseason.

“I think, lately, that we get a lot of hits,” Morgan said. “We usually get about one or two an inning and sometimes, we get a walk.

“We seem to always get runners on base but we don’t ever seem to get too many of them in. It’s important that we come together and keep battling.

The Admirals had a chance to really break things open in the top of the sixth but left the bases loaded.

Beavers coach Matt Hurley said that his team was uncharacteristically generous Monday night.

“Tonight, we made some mistakes that we don’t typically make,” he said. “They came out and they made us pay for those. Hats off to Pacifico.

“He did a great job and he was sharp but I’m very proud of my guys. I’m especially proud of my seniors. They leave as the winningest class in Karns baseball series and this is the first time that we’ve finished with 30 wins.”