Rally saves season, erases 6-0 deficit

FHS baseball overtakes Powell; one win from Murfreesboro

Farragut High School baseball head coach Matt Buckner knows postseason play is merely about surviving and advancing, and the veteran coach also understands there’s no bonus for style points.

The Admirals did survive Monday night. But it was anything but easy. And early, it looked as though the season would end prematurely for FHS for the second consecutive season.

“That’s what it’s all about at this point,” Buckner said after the Admirals overcame a six-run deficit en route to capturing a 13-9 victory over Powell in the Region 2-AAA semifinals before a packed house at John Heatherly Field/the Ballpark at Farragut. “We’re down 6-0 and that’s not a very good place to be.

“But you have to give our guys credit because they were patient at the plate and they battled all night.”

Regardless of Farragut’s outcome in the region title game Wednesday, May 16 (after deadline), the Admirals will advance to a substate game (site depends on Wednesday’s outcome) Friday evening, May 18. Friday’s winner goes to the TSSAA Class AAA State Tournament in Murfreesboro starting Tuesday, May 22.

The Admirals (33-7) fell behind 4-0 in the top of the first inning.

Parker Stinnett clubbed a two-run homer off FHS starter Owen Kovacs. Cameron Bryson added a two-run double off reliever Ben Joyce to make it 4-0.

The Panthers started junior left-hander Matt Grim, who kept Farragut at bay in the opening stages of the contest.

Powell (which finishes the 2018 campaign with a 24-9-1 record), meanwhile, scored two more runs in the top of the third, as Bryson knocked in two runs with a single to make the score 6-0.

Even though the Admirals struggled early, they had to know recent history was on their side.

The Panthers have played a regional game at Farragut in three of the last five seasons.

Powell led 5-0 in the seventh inning of the 2016 Region 2-AAA championship game, only see the Ads score six runs late to claim the title. The Panthers also lost elimination games to the Admirals in 2013 and 2014.

“We know that it’s going to be a tough game when you play those guys,” Buckner said.

Logan Dalton, Powell’s first-year head coach, agreed.

“We knew that this was going to be a seven-inning ballgame. We knew that we would have to play well in every inning,” Dalton said.

Powell pitchers gave up just nine hits in the game, but the Panthers were victimized by free passes. Grim, Walker Trusley, Dylan Jacobs and Desmond Billingsley combined to issue 11 walks and hit four batters.

The Ads scored twice in the bottom of the third. Ashton King and Parker Noland had consecutive singles with one out. Jerry Hammons then walked to load the bases. Paul Komistek drove in Farragut’s first run when he drew a bases-loaded walk. Cade Burkey was then hit by a pitch, scoring Noland to make the game 6-2.

The Admirals sent 11 batters to the plate in the fourth, and five of them scored.

Noland had a two-run single. Brad Grenkoski knocked in a run when he was plunked on the head with the bases loaded. Myles McFerran singled in a run. Farragut also picked up a run when the Panthers were called for interference.

When the dust had settled, Farragut had a 7-6 lead and the Admirals wouldn’t trail again.

“We knew that we could score runs,” said King, Farragut’s junior shortstop and leadoff hitter. “We were patient and we took our walks.”

The Ads added three in the fifth thanks to a two-run homer by Hammons, and picked up another run and took a 10-6 lead when McFerran reached on an error.

King had an RBI double in the sixth. Hammons knocked in a run with a single before Burkey made the score 13-6 with a sacrifice fly.

The Panthers made things interesting with three runs in the seventh.

Reliever Landon Smiddy improved his record to 8-0 after 4 1/3 innings of relief — three-plus innings of shutout work.