Sophomore pitching gem, defense, timely hits: FHS #1
MURFREESBORO — A sophomore pitcher with just 20 innings of work in 2023 — and no starts — took the mound for Farragut to begin its Division 1-4A state title game against rival Hardin Valley Academy.
Though admitting his “whole body was shaking just because of nerves,” Cole Draper pitched a shutout gem against a potent Hawks offense, allowing just three hits — only one through six innings — one hit batter and one walk while striking out four.
Big defensive plays and timely hitting — including a three-run first inning — allowed the Ads (36-8) to repeat as state champs, winning a state record 12th in program history with a 6-0 victory at MTSU’s Reese Smith Jr. Field Friday night, May 26.
“But you get out there and realize it’s just another game. You take a deep breath and pray to God, ask Him for help, just put it in His hands,” said Draper, who finished 2023 with a record of 3-1 with four saves and a 1.04 earned-run average.
“Obviously he was fantastic, a sophomore with a bright future,” said Admirals skipper
Matt Buckner, who wins his sixth state title in 13 full seasons as FHS head coach. “He’s been great all year. He’s been one of our best relievers. I just felt he was the man for the moment today.”
Defensively, “our outfield played fantastic, our infield played fantastic,” as junior right fielder Landis Davila made two sliding catches to end possible HVA rallies, while junior second baseman Jake Merrick’s diving stop of a grounder for an out also helped prevent a possible Hawks rally.
Farragut struck quickly in the bottom of the first.
A one-out Davila double, followed by an infield error and a walk, loaded the bases for senior third/first baseman Jett Johnston, whose two-RBI single made it 2-0. “There’s nothing like it — all the glory to God,” Johnston said.
Junior Brennon Seigler’s sac fly upped the lead to 3-0.
An RBI double in the second inning by Davila, off the first base bag, scored pinch-runner Ellis Gleed making it 4-0.
Pinch runner Aidan Flagg scored in the fifth on Seigler’s two-out double. Senior Mark Underwood, who led off the sixth with a double, scored on Davila’s sacrifice fly.
“This is pretty unreal,” Underwood said about the title.
“I’m excited for my team — I think they’ll do it again next year, hopefully,” said senior Ashton Sulack, staff ace who ended ’23 with a 6-1 record and a 1.25 ERA in 33 2/3 innings (opponents hit just .099 against him) before having his season ended with a UCL elbow tear early in the playoff run, requiring Tommy John surgery.
“Everything went their way,” said HVA head coach Tyler Roach, whose team ends 34-7.