A trio of senior hurlers combined for a four-hit pitching effort and four of the five Bear hits came from 12th graders as the hosts claimed a 4-2 victory over McMinn Central in what they hope is not their last game of the year at the McKenzie Baseball Complex.
“It seemed like we were going through the motions a little bit, but we got the main things done we wanted to do — we got to honor our seniors, got in a few reps, got some of our pitchers some work and nobody got hurt,“ declared Bradley head coach Travis Adams.
The third-seeded Bears (19-11, 9-3 District 5-AAA) will open the district tournament at Soddy-Daisy Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. against No. 6 McMinn County. Despite being just 4-20 on the season, including a 2-10 league mark, the Cherokees battled Bradley tough in pair of one-run games their home-and-home series.
“Everybody’s 0-0 now and in this tournament anybody can beat anybody else,” proclaimed coach Adams. “All of our district games this year were tough, as they always seem to be.”
The district tournament will open at 4 Wednesday afternoon as fourth-seeded Cleveland High (14-19, 7-5) squares off against No. 5 Rhea County (10-14, 3-9). The Blue Raiders swept the Eagles in the regular season by a combined 12-1 score.
Thursday’s 5-AAA slated has second-seeded Walker Valley (18-13, 9-3) face host Soddy-Daisy (7-20, 2-10), a team the Mustangs swept just last week in 8-3 and 4-0 contests.
Top-seeded Ooltewah (19-11, 10-2) will take on the Cleveland/Rhea County winner Thursday at 8 p.m. The double-elimination event will continue through May 8.
Bradley jumped on McMinn Central (12-14) early with a pair of first inning runs and another score in the second.
Senior Charles Chavis (.305 BA, .491 OBP) led off the opening rally with a one-out single before Jacob Maynard (.481, .562) and Caleb Pippenger (.325, .457) laced back-to-back doubles, the second of which plated the two runs.
The Bears picked up another run in their next at bat without benefit of a hit as junior Cal Pickel reached on an error, was bunted to second by classmate Logan Blackwell and, after a walk and an unsuccessful fielder’s choice, was brought home on a sac fly by Chavis.
Bradley’s final run came in the fourth frame as Blackwell led off with a walk, moved to second on an infield hit by Terrell and scored on a single senior Brently White.
The Bear hurlers held the Chargers scoreless until the final at bat of the evening as senior Nate Mills (6-3) tossed the first 3 2/3 innings of hitless ball, walking one and hitting another. Mills struck out eight of the final nine batters he faced before coming off the hill to a rousing ovation.
Senior Chris Miller came on in relief and after giving up an infield hit and walking a batter, got the final out of the top of the fourth. The left-handed transfer from Kentucky got out the first two batters of the fifth, but once again allowed an infield hit and a base on balls before inducing a pop up to get out of the jam.
Senior Ryan Blair took the bump for the final two frames, allowing a double to the first batter before getting out five of the next six Chargers. A lead-off walk in the seventh was the first of four free passes, plus another infield hit led to McMinn Central’s two runs before the final out was recorded.
McMinn Central 000 000 2 — 2 4 3
Bradley Central 210 100 x — 4 5 1
WP: Nate Mills (6-3) 3.2 IP, 8 Ks, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 0 hits, 0 ER. LP: Hunter Shaw 3 IP, 0 Ks, 2 BB, 2 HBP, 5 hits, 3 ER. 2B: Dyan Swilley (MC); Caleb Pippenger, Jacob Maynard (BC). RBI: Dalton Croft, Swilley (MC); Pippenger 2, Charles Chavis, Brently White (BC). Highlights: Croft 2-4, RBI (MC); Pippenger 1-1, HBP, 2B, 2 RBI; Chavis 1-1, 2 BB, RBI, r; White 1-3, BB, RBI (BC). Records: McMinn Central 12-14; Bradley Central 19-11.