By Steve Williams
Thanks to Gibbs High School, Knox County now has a 20-year streak of having one of its teams reach the TSSAA state finals in baseball.
Only the coronavirus pandemic was able to interrupt that streak when it forced the TSSAA to cancel its spring sports championships in 2020.
Coach Geff Davis’ Eagles got it going again at the Spring Fling last week and not only reached the Class AA finals but won the championship Friday with a 14-8 win over district rival Pigeon Forge at Siegel High School in Murfreesboro.
After rallying past Watertown 4-3 in its tourney opener Tuesday, Gibbs made it look easy, rolling past Covington 13-2 Wednesday and mercy-ruling Greenbrier 11-0 Thursday before toppling Pigeon Forge in the title game.
The Eagles (32-7) used a pair of six-run innings to tame the Tigers.
Pigeon Forge, which defeated Gibbs in this season’s district finals before losing to the Eagles in the region finals, jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning in the state finals.
Gibbs responded with six runs in the bottom of the first.
Pigeon Forge pulled even at 8-8 in the top of the fourth inning. But the Eagles again responded with six runs in the bottom of the fifth and never looked back.
Dawson Gentry slugged a three-run homer to lead the Gibbs attack. Braden Graves drove in two runs. Brayden Taylor, Mason Bell, Carson Raby and Bryson Nipper-Shown each had a double in the game.
Taylor came in to pitch in the fourth inning and held the Tigers scoreless the rest of the way, striking out seven.
Gibbs hangs up a 32-7 record. Davis also guided the Eagles to a state crown in 2010.
Gibbs trailed by three runs before rallying past Watertown in its state opener at Blackman High.
Graves ignited the Eagles in the bottom of the fourth with a triple. Raby followed with a RBI grounder.
Down 3-2 going into the seventh, Tyson Merritt led off the inning with a base on balls. Ethan Coppinger was inserted as a pinch runner and stole second base. Taylor walked and a wild pitch allowed Coppinger to go to third.
Bell’s sacrifice bunt brought in Coppinger with the tying run. After Graves walked, Dawson Warwick singled to second base and Taylor scored the winning run.
Taylor also logged the mound win as he blanked the Purple Tigers over the last three innings.
Gibbs moved within one win of the finals by pulling away from Covington. The game was close until the Eagles struck for four runs in the top of the sixth inning and six more in the seventh.
Raby, the catcher and clean-up hitter, drove in six runs with a grand slam home run in the sixth and a two-run single in the seventh. He totaled three hits in five at-bats.
Nipper-Shown added two RBI and two doubles to the fireworks. Merritt also had two hits and a pair of RBI.
Bell, Graves and Warwick also had two hits apiece in Gibbs’ 13-hit barrage.
Jacob Claiborne logged the mound win, allowing the Chargers only one earned run in his 4.1 innings.
With the title berth for the taking, Gibbs wasted no time against Greenbrier, scoring eight runs in the top of the first. The Eagles had four hits to go with the Bobcats’ three errors in the big inning.
Raby breezed to the mound win and he and Nipper-Shown each had two RBI in the game.