From bases-loaded 3 RBIs to barehanded putout

‘Best team that’s ever played in TN’ led by FHS Class of ’24, 17 strong; end careers with state title 3-peat, edge Nolensville

  • Junior pitcher Cole Draper (facing camera), state-title game winning pitcher, hugs his catcher, senior Gavin Brewer. - Photos by Alan Sloan

  • Farragut senior shortstop Lukas Buckner with his parents, Admirals skipper Matt Buckner and his wife, Robyn. - Photos by Alan Sloan

  • All smiles as one of the 17 FHS seniors, Brennon Seigler, center fielder, gets a hug from a teammate. - Photos by Alan Sloan

MURFREESBORO — The first big blow that put Farragut’s ultra-talented and huge Class of 2024-led baseball team on the state map was Eli Evans’ two-out, three-RBI triple down the left-field line in the top of the seventh inning, breaking a 1-1 tie versus Houston in 2022.

The result: state title No. 1 of this new era.

The last big play that capped a TSSAA Division I-4A state title threepeat for this class, and the entire Admirals program, was Evans doing his best Brooks Robinson imitation to charge a slow tapper, make a barehand grab and fire an off-balance, yet accurate, throw to first base.

This final out, which if not recorded would have brought the go-ahead run to the plate for Nolesville (34-10), secured a nerve-wracking 3-1 state title game win Friday night, May 24, at MTSU’s Reese Smith Jr. Field.

“I trust myself to make that play,” said this Class 4-A Mr. Baseball state finalist.

“He’s done that five or six times this year,” Admirals skipper Matt Buckner said about bare-handed putouts from Evans, one of 17 seniors, most of whom have been huge contributors to the program’s success the past three seasons, with all eight position players from this class.

How good is this team, and this senior class?

“I don’t mean this to be disrespectful to any team in the past, but I think this is the best (high school) team that’s played in Tennessee,” said Buckner, who announced his retirement from coaching early this week after 699 wins and seven state titles in 15 FHS seasons.

“I think it’s the deepest,” as his 2024 team has been ranked among the top 10 programs in the United States by many leading high school polls. With a final 40-5 record, these Ads finished perfect versus in-state opponents this season.

Non-senior Draper

However, one non-member of the Class of 2024 has put state title game pitching duties entirely on his shoulders the past two seasons. Junior Cole Draper scattered seven hits in going the full seven innings (two walks, three strikeouts), with the only run scoring on a bobbled ball after a put-out in the top of the second inning.

“Cole Draper, what are you going to say? The guy’s thrown two complete games in back-to-back state championships,” coach Buckner said. “He was unreal today. ... Just a tough-minded kid. He’s who you want to have the ball when it’s on the line.”

A first-inning single by Lukas Buckner, a double from Jake Merrick and an RBI single from Evans (three hits total) plus a passed ball, scored two runs. Buckner walked and scored on Merrick’s second-inning RBI single.

“It’s a blessing to have this team and just have all these friends and just be able to compete with each other for these last four years,” Merrick said.

About coaching his son — with Lukas a former TBCA Player of the Year as a four-year starting shortstop who became the career hits leader in program history — “It’s pretty awesome,” the coach said. “Proud of him and proud of his teammates. A lot of emotions here, trying to keep it under control, but it’s a pretty special day, and I’m proud of these guys. They’re tough-minded and they’re just hard to beat, man.”

Playing for dad “was special, man,” Lukas said. “There’s been a lot of pressure building on us every single year, and it’s been hard to get through it sometimes, but we’ve always found a way through.”

The state titles illustrate “all the work we put in day in, day out,” said Landis Davila, senior right fielder and District 4-4A MVP who made a sliding shoestring catch in this game. “Just to see it all work out is amazing, a dream come true.”

“I just want to give all glory to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” pitcher/first baseman Michael Delph said. “It’s such a blessing to be out here. This group of guys, man, so emotional leaving these guys, growing up with them since we were 2. ... But we went out with a bang.”

“Praise God. I’m so blessed to be a part of this team,” said senior center fielder Brennon Seigler, who collected his 200th career hit during the tourney. “Statistically, we’re one of the best teams that ever came through here, man.”

“It’s been a great four years with these guys. I grew up with them,” senior catcher Gavin Brewer said. “They’re my brothers. We love each other like no other, so it’s awesome.”