By Steve Williams
There’s a baseball saying that “Walks will Haunt.” Farragut High’s baseball team definitely got spooked Friday night but managed to survive.
Despite giving up nine bases on balls, a hit batsman and a wild pitch in the first three innings, the Admirals came back to beat Sevier County 8-5 in the Class AAA state sectional game at The Ballpark at Farragut.
“It was a tough game,” said Farragut skipper Matt Buckner. “We didn’t get off to a very good start. We were fortunate to win.”
The Admirals(32-8) will return to the TSSAA state tournament this week in Murfreesboro. They won four straight state titles before failing to reach the finals last year. The Smoky Bears hang up a 32-10 record.
A thunderstorm delayed the game for 1 hour and 15 minutes, after Farragut had rallied to go ahead 6-5 in the bottom of the fourth.
Sophomore Patrick Raby came on in relief of Farragut ace Kyle Serrano, who had serious control issues, to nail down the win. After walking the first two batters he faced, Raby retired 12 of the last 13.
Sam Schulze, nicknamed “Squints” after his resemblance to one of the little kids in the movie The Sandlot, led the Farragut attack with a two-out, two-run double in the second and a RBI grounder in the fourth.
“I’ve been hitting pretty well in the playoffs,” said the junior second baseman, eighth in the batting order. “It was an inside pitch. I took a good swing on it and we went up 2-1 in the second inning.”
Coach Buckner agreed the contest was like two games – one before and one after the rain delay.
“Raby locked in after that one inning,” he said, “and we started swinging it.”
No. 9 hitter Duncan Pence singled in one run in the Admirals’ big fourth inning, Anthony El Chibani scored on an error and Nick Senzel’s sacrifice fly to right field brought home Squints with the go-ahead run just before former major league umpire Dale Ford cleared the field as the storm moved in.
Farragut added a pair of insurance runs in the sixth. Jammer Strickland singled and raced home on Chase Chambers’ double, and Chambers counted on Brett Hagenow’s second single of the game.
“Xander Taylor gave me the nickname my freshman year in tryouts,” said Squints. “I love it. It caught on at school. Xander graduated last year and is now at Vol State.”
Serrano, a UT signee and son of Vols head coach Dave Serrano, struggled to get his pitches down and walked three batters and hit another in a top half of the first that lasted 13 minutes. Still, Sevier County managed to score only one run as Serrano fanned DeVante Matthews for the third out with the bases full.
Serrano gave up seven bases on balls and hit a batter before being pulled with two outs in the third.
The Smoky Bears took advantage of Serrano’s and Raby’s wildness by scoring four runs in the third to take a 5-2 lead. Alan Silva’s two-run single did the most damage.
Key defensive plays by the Admirals included a throw and relay from left fielder Alex Schuettler to shortstop Senzel to catcher Hagenow that nailed Dalton Ford at the plate in the second, and a diving stop by third baseman Pence in the fourth.
Silva, Sevier County’s shortstop, showed off his strong arm from deep in the hole more than once.
Dillon Cate, ETSU signee and the scheduled starting pitcher for the visitors, reportedly experienced tightness in his elbow and forearm in warmups and was changed to designated hitter, and Jeffrey Henry started instead.
Grace Christian Academy is going back to the Class A state baseball tournament.
The Rams blasted homestanding North Greene 10-3 in state sectional action Friday.
Last year, GCA went 1-2 at the state.
Play begins Tuesday, May 21, in the BlueCross Spring Fling in Murfreesboro.
In other state sectional games of local interest, CAK was eliminated at Elizabethton 6-1 and Pigeon Forge (34-2) toppled Greeneville 10-0 in Class AA.
Knoxville Catholic was ousted at Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett 3-1 in Class AAA.
In Division II-A Sub-State playoffs, Webb School’s season ended on its home field with 7-1 and 9-3 losses to Jackson Christian.