Bears come up short in state title chase

By RICHARD ROBERTS
Posted 5/26/19

MURFREESBORO — Twenty-five years after winning its last state baseball championship, Bradley Central again stood poised to reel in the trophy holding a 3-2 lead over Farragut in the third …

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Bears come up short in state title chase

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MURFREESBORO — Twenty-five years after winning its last state baseball championship, Bradley Central again stood poised to reel in the trophy holding a 3-2 lead over Farragut in the third inning.

But, the Admirals  pounced for two runs in the bottom of the third and another two in the fifth and added one more in the sixth to shut down the storybook run for the Bears  and capture their 10th state AAA title with a 7-3 win.

Farragut (42-3) finished the season winning 36 of its final 37 baseball games.

"They fought to the very end. I know it hurts right now, but this week at the state tournament is one they will remember the rest of their lives and be able to take something away from it," said a disappointed, but proud Bears coach Travis Adams, who's team reached the state final after a 1-4 start.

The Admirals (42-3) picked up two runs in the bottom of the first after loading the bases and scoring on a ground ball and wild pitch.

The Bears (25-15) committed only two errors over the course of the tournament and feasted on the mistakes of opponents. They tied the game 2-2 in the top of the second on Farragut miscues. 

After  singles by Jake Thompson, Ryan Giovengo and a Tucker Still bunt loaded the bases, a throwing error to first on a ground ball scored Thompson and Giovengo. 

Dylan Standifer reached on an Admirals' error in the top of the third and stood on third when Caden Sherlin singled to right field. Standifer made it 3-2 on a ground ball off the bat of Thompson.

"I really expected us to kind of lock in (on Farragut pitcher Ryan Hagenow) a little bit more. But, their guy got better as the game went on. It is what it is. It's a crazy game. He did his job," said Adams. "We pushed this thing pretty far. We pushed it pretty far for this group of kids."

The Admirals came back to retake the lead, 4-3, in the bottom of the inning on a walk and three singles.

"We about got out and held it when they got up by one, but we just had to create a little more at the plate," Adams explained. "We faced Hagenow and he's going to Kentucky for a reason. There is no mystery there. He got better as the game went on it seemed like. We expected he might run out of gas or get into trouble on his own, but he didn't. You've got to tip your cap. Not many walks, not many freebies. When you play like that we had to do a little bit more."

It was the first outing of the tournament for the Admirals No. 1 pitcher Hagenow, who was saved by Farragut coaches for the championship game. The lanky righty gave up only four hits to the Bears in a complete game effort, striking out 11 and issuing no walks while facing 26 batters. The Kentucky commit, after being pushed around a bit by Bradley hitters early, sat the Bears down in order in the final four innings, fanning the final four batters he faced.

"They are the real deal. There are not many chinks in their armor. There is a reason their record is what it is. There is a reason they are the state champs today," said Adams of the national powerhouse Admirals.

Freshman Cooper Casteel started on the mound for the Bears, and delivered for three innings before handing the ball to Jake Prock in the bottom of the fourth.

Adams had high praise for his young lefty, who gave up only four hits and walked two.

"Our plan was to get three innings and get him through and make a change and swap it up on them. If they see somebody a couple of times through they make adjustments. They can swing it. That was the game plan going in," said Adams of the planned change. "For a freshman to go out there and give us a chance on the big stage is huge. I'm proud of our guys, they fought hard."

Prock gave the Bears three inning, striking out two Admirals and giving up a walk and three earned runs.

"At the end of the day, we were in the finals with a group of blue collar kids. There are no Division I superstars. They are a scrappy group that likes to claw and fight and kind of create and do. I'm proud of them. I really am. They were in an elimination game in the district tournament and for them to come together and play like they did, and get to this game, there is a lot to be said for that."

Adams said his Bears stayed focused throughout the season and bought in to the game plan of one-day, one-game at a time. It was a plan that payed off with a trip to the state tournament.

"Really, we simplified it to the next game, and the next game. We didn't get ahead of ourselves on anything. We knew if we played well we'd have a chance. One hit here or there could have changed it a little bit," said Adams of the memorable run.

"Baseball stuff aside, I'm proud of them and their work ethic all year, the fight and resiliency they showed throughout the season. They were one of the last two standing."

Game Summary

AAA Championship
Bradley Central          021  000  0 — 3  4  1
Farragut                         202  021  x — 7  9  2
WP: Ryan Hagenow LP: Cooper Casteel. 2B: Ashton King (F). Highlights: Jake Thompson RBI, Dylan Standifer RS, Ryan Giovengo RS, Tucker Still RS (BC); King 2-3 RBI, Parker Noland 2-2, Hunter Merrick RBI, Ryan McCarthy 1-3 3 RBI (F). Records: Bradley Central 25-15; Farragut 42-3.

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