Drama, yet dominance
Hawks, Ads diamond duo earn state trips
While Ty Denton provided late-rally drama for Hardin Valley Academy baseball, sending the Hawks to Murfreesboro and this week’s Division I-4A state tourney thanks to a walk-off homer at Johnson City Science Hill, Farragut softball — two-time defending Class 4A state champs — was within one strike of season elimination at the hands of visiting Morristown West in sectionals.
Meanwhile, the FHS Admirals baseball team sat back and enjoyed a less hectic sectional run late last week, dominating Jefferson County in two games while looking to repeat as Class 4A state champs.
Here’s a look at all three of these state tournament-bound teams, starting with the super clutch bats of Lady Admiral junior Laney Shrader and fellow junior Anna French helping save their softball team.
FHS 7 Morristown West 4 (9 innings)
Having already supplied her team’s entire run total through six innings with a two-run homer in the first inning, Shrader was down to her final strike in the bottom of the seventh, with Farragut (32-5) trailing Morristown West 4-2 in the sectional FHS hosted at Bellamy Field Friday evening, May 19.
But the junior third baseman came through with runners at first and third base, lacing a two-out RBI single and cutting the lead to 4-3 — then came a huge break before the next pitch was made.
“Elsa (Morrison) comes first to third (on Shrader’s RBI single), and Morristown West tries to throw behind Laney (and get her out while off of first base), and the ball gets away — and Elsa has tremendous awareness to score the tying run,” FHS head coach Nick Green said.
“At that point you could see that the momentum had shifted, and you could see that Morristown West was nervous at that point,” he added. “Each one of our at-bats kept getting better and better.”
About Shrader, “She was definitely determined at the plate,” her coach said.
To start things in the FHS seventh, “Amelia Dorset (No. 9 hitter) has an outstanding at bat,” Green said about the sophomore overcoming an 0-2 count to draw a walk. “I can’t tell you how many pitches she fouled off” to stay alive. “That has to be one of the biggest at bats of the game.”
In the bottom of the ninth, FHS junior Hailey Nichols batted back from a no balls, 2-strike count to led off with a double. Morrison was once again intentionally walked before Shrader also walked to load the bases with none out.
Although senior shortstop Ava Guzowski hit a sharp liner down the right field line, it was caught — and a Farragut baserunning mistake allowed MWHS (22-12) to turn a double play.
But then came French to save the day.
With a no ball, 1-strike count, French ended the game and secured the Lady Ads’ latest trip to state with a deep drive three-run homer over the center field fence for a 7-4 win.
“I was so happy for her,” Green said of French, the team’s designated player-right fielder who also serves as the team’s back-up catcher and back-up first baseman.
Saying French “was down on herself” for not driving in the winning run in the bottom of the seventh, “I just gave her a smile and told her to go get it.
“Just a great moment for her,” he added. “... She’s put in a lot of work this year.”
Walking Morrison all five times she appeared at the plate “came back to bite them: she scored three runs,” Green said about the star sophomore catcher who goes into this week’s state tourney action with 23 home runs — just one short of the state record of 24.
“We’re optimistic that at the state tournament she’ll get to see some (non-intentional walk) at-bats,” the head coach added.
However, “A record she’s already broken is the walks record in the state of Tennessee: she has 51 walks,” Green said.
As for Emma MacTavish, Farragut staff ace pitcher, she gave up four runs and nine hits during her first 4 1/3 innings of work.
However, the junior completely turned things around during her final five innings, setting down the final 14 Lady Trojans she faced while striking out five (nine for the game, with no walks in nine innings). “Emma, she was starting to dominate the line-up,” Green said. “Once we tied it up, she was lights out.”
Overlook, stress, calm
However, “I don’t feel like we took them seriously to start with,” Green said about his team’s attitude going into the game. “That was not (the coaching staff’s) directive to them — we played them earlier in the year and had beaten them 5-0.
“And we were playing at home, so I just don’t know if they were 100 percent ready to go,” he added.
With nine hits and four runs in their first 4 1/3 innings, “Morristown West was ready to go,” Green said. “... Scoring two runs there in the opening inning put us behind already.
“And our defense really wasn’t where it needed to be early in the game,” he added, as two of the Lady Trojans’ four runs were unearned.
For all of the self-confidence before the game, “By the middle innings you could see we were stressing a little bit,” Green said. “Part of that was probably my fault; I try to be as calm as I can be to help them out — but I probably wasn’t.
“But by the fifth inning I just calmed down a little bit,” the Lady Ads skipper added.
Only one home loss
As the only senior who has played with the Farragut team all four years, Guzowski lost just one home game in her four seasons at FHS, and none since her sophomore year in 2021.
“And that home loss was only because we had prom that day (a Saturday) and we sent all of our upperclassmen to prom and played against a state tournament Union County team with our freshmen and sophomores,” Green said.
Early state schedule
The Lady Admirals opened state tourney play Tuesday afternoon, May 23 (after deadline) against Arlington (28-6-1). A victory would advance Farragut to play the winner of Nolensville (39-14) versus Coffee County (27-7). That game is set to start at 5 p.m., EDT, Wednesday, May 24.
State championship-round games are scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. EDT, Friday, May 26, at Starplex Field No. 2 in Murfreesboro.
Class 4A baseball state
Matt Buckner’s Farragut Admirals baseball team (32-8) began defense of its 2022 Class 4A state title with a game versus Independence (32-10) Tuesday (after deadline).
The other two teams in the Admirals’ group of four are Stewarts Creek (29-7) and Clarksville (33-7).
One of these four teams will survive to play in the championship game at Middle Tennessee State University beginning at 8 p.m. EDT, Friday, May 26.
In the other four-team state bracket, Hardin Valley (30-5) played Collierville (39-9) in its opening game Tuesday. The other teams in that group of four are Centennial (24-12) and Walker Valley (22-13).
Having gone up 1-0 in the best of three sectional series at Science Hill by beating the Hilltoppers 4-1 Wednesday, May 17, the Hawks trailed SHHS 7-6 going to their final at-bat in the bottom of the seventh in game two Thursday, May 18.
After a lead-off double from Carson Hoffmeister, Denton, an All-Region and All-District senior catcher, punched HVA’s ticket to Murfreesboro with a walk-off two-run homer.
Admirals roll twice
Making quick work of Jefferson County in its best-of-three sectional at FHS’s Ballpark at Farragut/John Heatherly Field last Wednesday and Thursday, the Admirals rolled to a 16-3 win May 17, then blanked the Patriots 15-0 May 18.
In game one, Lukas Buckner led in hits with three, while Eli Evans and Jett Johnston each led in RBIs with three apiece.
Landis Davila tripled and doubled, Johnston homered and Jake Merrick and Buckner each doubled.
Winning pitcher Stratton Scott allowed two earned runs, four hits and no walks with four strikeouts in four innings.
In game two, Johnston led in RBIs with four thanks to a pair of home runs, followed by Buckner with three RBI. Brennon Seigler’s three hits topped all Ads, while Charlie Bozeman smacked a two-run homer. Gavin Brewer, Merrick and Davila each doubled.
Winning pitcher Michael Delph fired four innings, allowing no earned runs, two hits and no walks with three strikeouts.