"It's baseball man. It's a crazy game. We took what they gave us and were able to manufacture some runs."— Bears head coach Travis AdamsMURFREESBORO — For the second time in three days, …
"It's baseball man. It's a crazy game. We took what they gave us and were able to manufacture some runs."
— Bears head coach Travis Adams
MURFREESBORO — For the second time in three days, Bradley Central managed just one hit off Riverdale pitching.
Also for the second time, the 10th-ranked Bears found other ways to score to upset the third-ranked Warriors and advance to their first TSSAA State Championship Game in a quarter of a century.
"We hit a lot of balls hard at them," proclaimed veteran head coach Travis Adams after the 4-3 victory to win the bottom half of the state bracket. "We took what they gave us (eight free passes, four errors and a wild pitch) and were able to manufacture some runs."
Unlike Tuesday, when the lone hit to break up a no-hit bid came in the form of an RBI-double in the sixth inning by senior Jake Thompson, on Thursday it was an opening frame, two-out single by junior Riley Black (.380 BA, .514 OBP), that had nothing to do with the Bear scoring.
"It's baseball man. It's a crazy game," declared Adams.
While the 25-14 Bears have roared past the third- (Riverdale 27-14) and fourth-ranked (Independence 26-12) teams in the latest TCBA poll, to open the state state event, their biggest challenge awaits them this evening. Top-ranked Farragut and its 41-3 record will be the daunting opponent at Middle Tennessee State University this evenig at 6.
The Admirals also swept through the top foursome in the bracket, outscoring second-ranked Bartlett 17-2 yesterday to earn a spot in their 16th state championship game in 19 state appearance, with nine crowns to their credit. They last won the state title in 2014.
Although Farragut lost a pair of games to Florida teams in an early season tournament in Fort Lauderdale, its lone defeat to a Tennessee team came to Hardin Valley in the Region 2 title game.
Making its ninth state appearance and fourth championship game, Bradley won't go into today's game intimidated.
"This (playing for the state title) means the world to all of us. This is what we've been fighting for. The first time since '94 (when Bradley claimed its lone state crown)," assessed senior Dylan Standifer, who made a key double play to thwart a Riverdale scoring threat and end the sixth inning.
"This was our (the seniors) third time making the substate and we were finally able to get that off our back," the Lee University signee stated. "We hope to get another load off our back tomorrow (today). Everyone knows it's going to be a tough task, but we're ready for it. We're going to get after it, I promise you that."
Looking to pay the Bears back for Tuesday's loss, Riverdale jumped out to a quick lead yesterday when after a leadoff plunk, Brett Dinguss stroked a double to plate a run before an out was recorded. After Bear starter Jake Thompson struck out a pair, he was able to score when Johnny Powers stroked a little bleeder into short left field.
Bradley evened the score in the top of the fourth frame when Thompson reached base on a catcher's interference to open the at bat.
After his courtesy runner, freshman Aiden McClary, stole second base, senior Ryan Giovengo dropped down a sacrifice bunt, but the throw to first went down the right field line, allowing the run to score and "Gio" to end up at second base.
After a successful sac bunt by junior Tucker Still, senior Freddy Johnson delivered the lone Bear RBI with a sac fly to right field to plate Giovengo.
The Black-and-Gold took the lead in the top of the sixth when Giovengo led off with a walk and then swiped second.
After the next two Bears struck out, junior Logan Weeks also worked a free pass and sophomore Ashton Simmons "took one for the team" off his batting helmet to load the bases.
Having seen enough, the Riverdale coach brought out the hook for his starting pitcher. However, the first pitch from the Warrior reliever bounced away from the catcher, allowing Giovengo to score and the throw to third base went into left field, letting Weeks trot home for a 4-2 lead.
With Thompson's pitch count up over the century mark, Coach Adams had to go to his bullpen and the Warriors tried to answer after back-to-back walks to open the bottom of the inning.
Another pitching change brought Giovengo from third base to the mound and sent Standifer, who had been the DH, to the hot corner.
After a sac bunt moved the runners up a base and an intentional walk loaded the sacks, the next Warrior batter hit a sharp bouncer to Standifer, who spun around to find a Riverdale base runner on him, so he tagged him, then fired to first in time to nip the batter for the double play.
"In baseball, whenever you haven't been in the field all game and you get put in there, the ball will find you," Standifer stated. "I was ready for it and was able to make the play."
As has been its nature, Bradley had a little trouble in the final frame before being able to close it out.
Powers led off with a single, but was thrown out at second on a fielder's choice that left Brantley Bamburg on first base. Blake Merwin followed with another single, moving Bamburg to third.
Benjamin Wilson then lifted a sac fly to left field to cut the difference to a run, but that was as close as the boys from Murfreesboro would come as the next batter grounded out to Johnson at second base to set off the Bear celebration.
"Jake (Thompson) went out there and battled that lineup for five innings and came up big for us," praised Coach Adams. "'Gio' came in and was kind of funky, straight out of the barrel, but he got the job done."
Thompson got the win to improve to 4-2 on the season and lower his earned run average to 3.31. The senior lefty struck out nine to up his season total to 45 in 35.1 innings pitched. Giovengo picked up his first save of the season.
"We should have held them to one run in the first inning, but we had some miscommunication in the outfield. We were able to play good defense after that and get the job done," he added.
Giovengo credited the win to "Good" coaching. "They (the Bear coaches) made the right decisions to get us in position to win."
"I didn't think we'd make it to the championship," the senior said honestly, but then quickly corrected himself declaring, "I knew we'd make it this far.
"It's been over a month (April 20) since I pitched, but I was glad to get the ball. I'm so proud of my team. I wouldn't want to be here with anybody else."
When asked the difference between going to the state championship as a coach compared to as a player, Adams, who was a sophomore shortstop on the 1994 state championship squad, responded emotionally, "My nerves. My anxiety for my kids is probably worse.
"I wanted this bad for the kids. I know what it feels like and what it will mean to them the rest of their lives."
TSSAA Spring Fling
Class AAA State
at Oakland HS
Bradley Central 000 202 0 — 4 1 0
Riverdale 100 000 1 — 3 7 4
WP: Jake Thompson (4-2, 3.31 ERA) 5 IP, 5 hits, 2 ER, 9 Ks, 3 BBs 3 HBP. LP: Benjamin Wilson (R) 5.2 IP, 1 hit, 1 ER, 7 Ks, 6 BB, 1 HBP. Save: Ryan Giovengo (BC, 1) 2 IP, 2 hits, 1 ER, 0 Ks, 1 BB. 2Bs: Brett Dinguss, Brantley Bamburg (R). RBIs: Freddy Johnson (17)(BC); Dinguss, Johnny Powers, Wilson (R). LOB: BC 7; Riverdale 11. Highlights: Riley Black 1-2, 2 BBs (CR Aiden McClary run); Ashton Simmons BB, HBP; Giovengo 2 ROE, BB, SB, 2 runs; Johnson 2 sacrifices, RBI; Tucker Still BB, sac bunt (BC): Powers 3-3, RBI; Dinguss 1-2, BB, sac bunt, 2 SB, RBI, run; Shiara HBP, BB, run (R). Records: No. 10 Bradley Central 25-14; No. 3 Riverdale 27-14.
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