Bases-loaded magic with Pease, Evans, Underwood holds off Houston for title

MURFREESBORO — On top of the stellar pitching performance from Farragut senior staff ace Jaxson Pease, and aided by his trusted senior catcher Garrett Brewer, a state title came down to a pair of seventh-inning bases-loaded situations.

In short, two sophomores took care of business, and the Admirals celebrated a Class 4A state championship — a Tennessee baseball record 11th crown by one program — in dramatic fashion versus perennial power Houston Saturday afternoon, May 28, at Oakland High School.

“We’re just tough, man; we’ve got a bunch of warriors on this team,” said Pease, who finished out the complete-game championship performance while allowing just one earned run and five hits with five strikeouts. “We don’t let anything get to us.”

Tied 1-1 in the top of the seventh, and Farragut having the bases loaded with two outs, sophomore Eli Evans jumped on the first pitch and laced a bases-clearing three-RBI double down the third-base line, scoring Mark Underwood, Lukas Buckner and Landis Davila.

The pitch “was a slider down and in, and I just turned on it,” said Evans, a third baseman/pitcher who connected for three of the Ads’ seven hits. “I was expecting a slider.”

Farragut (30-11-1) was three outs away from ecstatic joy.

But the Mustangs (38-9) got things going with one out against the gutsy, but tiring, Pease, who ended up throwing 108 pitches in his final high school game.

A single, double and walk loaded the bases with one.

Then came the clinching play.

A bouncer up the middle was gloved by sophomore second baseman Jake Merrick, who touched the bag at second and completed the game-ending — and dogpile celebration-igniting — double play.

Good defensive communication between sophomores helped.

“I was going to flip it (to shortstop Buckner), but Lukas told me to take it,” Merrick said.

When head coach Matt Buckner visited Pease at the mound during the seventh-inning jam, “He was just giving me time to chill out, that’s all it was,” the senior pitcher said. “... He trusted me. I had a lot of adrenaline. ... Obviously I was probably a little tired going into the later innings. ... But I had confidence in myself.”

Perhaps the most well-rounded effort Saturday, both at the plate and defensively, came from Underwood, junior left fielder — and the No. 9 hitter in the line-up.

Getting the one-out seventh-inning rally going with a single, Underwood’s bunt single sparked Farragut’s top of the fifth, where Lukas Buckner’s groundout scored Jack Alley with the game’s first run.

Underwood also ended a Mustangs threat in the fourth, having a runner at second base and two outs, with a diving catch in foul territory.

“It’s a total blessing,” an excited Underwood said. “I can name 10 who contributed, like insane, today.”

Houston answered in the bottom of the sixth to tie thanks to a two-out double by Ryan Mitchell, scoring Ryan Bland, who singled.

Lukas Bucker and Alley, yet another key sophomore (designated hitter), provided the other Admirals hits.

About the big sophomore class’ growth in 2022, Lukas said, “We started the year really immature,” but added his classmates “matured” due to a tough regular season schedule.

Joining Pease as senior starters ending their careers, Brewer said, “It feels great.”

The title game win also ends a long association between Brewer and Pease. “Me and him have pitching and catching together for eight-plus, maybe 10 years,” the senior catcher said. “It’s really a special moment.”

Coach Bucker summed it all up: “I’m a very blessed man.

“We’ve been through the battles. I’m so proud of my guys.”