Hardin Valley uses unearned runs to capture deciding game

KNOXVILLE — Heading into Monday night’s championship round of the District 4-4A Baseball Tournament, Farragut High School had to beat Hardin Valley Academy twice to be crowned tournament champs.

The Hawks, on the other hand, had to win only once.

The talented arch-rivals didn’t disappoint during a rare visit to UT’s Lindsey Nelson Stadium for what turned out to be a doubleheader May 8.

In a wild first game replete with clutch hits, costly errors and opportunistic defense, FHS won 7-4 in 10 innings.

In the winner-take-all second game, HVA (27-4) bounced back with a 7-5 win — taking advantage of seven unearned runs thanks to five Farragut errors — to claim the 4-4A tournament championship.

Hawks head coach Tyler Roach was, unsurprisingly, proud of his boys responding the way they did in the nightcap.

“It says a lot about our guys … when you lose the first game the momentum is sucked away from you,” Roach said. “But we punched ‘em in the nose real quick right away. I’m so proud of them.”

The punch Roach referenced was seven runs HVA scored in the second and third innings of the second game. Down 1-0 after one, the Hawks scored three in the top of the second.

With two on and no outs, HVA’s Jacob Dillon laid down a bunt. Admirals’ pitcher Charlie Bozeman’s errant throw to first allowed both runners to score.

Dillon later scored on a sacrifice fly by Caleb Neely.

FHS cut it to 3-2 in their half of the second, but the Hawks promptly made it 7-2 in the third.

Ty Denton and Will Webb started the inning with singles, and both came around helped by a wild pitch and an infield error.

A hit batsman and another error brought in Henry Ferguson. A sacrifice fly later scored Caden Channell.

The Admirals (28-8) made it 7-3 in the sixth, then created last-inning drama when Eli Evans’ double scored Mark Underwood, who’d been hit by a pitch, and Lukas Buckner, who had singled.

Jett Johnston’s flyout ended the game.

Hawks’ freshman pitcher Jax Sparks went six innings, giving up four hits and three runs.

“It’s something I’ve worked on, trying to keep myself calm under pressure,” Sparks said. “I felt pretty confident at the beginning, but you never know.”

“What a competitor Jax Sparks is,” Roach said. “For a freshman to do that in that situation … huge, huge.”