It was a familiar position for the Maryville baseball team.
Down to their last out, the Rebels had runners on first and second after Christian Markham started a one-out rally with a hard hit single up the middle. Will Orren then moved the center fielder to second with a groundout before the Admirals intentionally walked Reuben Church.
That brought Mason Fry to the plate. The third baseman fought off a couple pitches from Farragut relief pitcher Collin Grove. Then the senior right hander buckled down and painted the outside corner to get Fry looking and give the Admirals a 1-0 Region 2-AAA Championship win at Coulter Grove Intermediate School on Wednesday night.
The Rebels (30-10) now travel to Region 1-AAA Champion Dobyns-Bennett at 6 p.m. on Friday for the team’s first sectional appearance since 2011. Farragut (33-9) hosts Region 1-AAA runner-up Jefferson County.
“I just felt like the last two games we’ve had some bad at-bats with runners in scoring position,” Maryville coach Adam Sullivan told the Daily Times. “We have to improve that on Friday and we’ll be alright. We just shot ourselves in the foot tonight.”
Leaving runners on base was an all too common theme for the Rebels, as they left a total of 10 runners stranded and five stuck in scoring position, starting in the first inning. Farragut starter Drew Patterson got Drew Elkins to groundout to third to leave Reuben Church, who had been intentionally walked earlier in the inning, on second.
The Rebels then had runners on first and second with nobody out in the second inning after Matt Young was hit by a pitch and Evan Porter singled. Patterson responded by striking out consecutive batters before Markham grounded out to third to end the inning.
Maryville had first and second and no outs again in the fifth when Riley Church and Markham hit back-to-back singles, but a pair of pop-ups and a groundout harmlessly ended another Rebel threat.
“It’s frustrating,” Sullivan said. “I feel like we could’ve won that game pretty easily if we could just string together and at-bat or two. … A couple times we just went up there swinging at the first pitch and letting the guy get us out, instead of getting up there and finding our pitch.”
As poor as Maryville was getting runners home, the Rebel pitching staff was just as effective at stranding Admirals. Will Orren started the game for the Rebels, throwing 2.1 innings of shutout baseball before running into trouble.
With one out in the third, Farragut got to the junior for back-to-back singles, leading Sullivan to turn to Bryce Carnes out of the bullpen. The senior got two quick outs to end the threat before Farragut finally broke the stalemate in the fourth.
A one-out double from Jake Grooms, and a misplayed ball at shortstop set the Admirals up with runners on first and third and two outs, when No. 9 hitter Brad Grenkoski roped a ball down the third base line. Fry laid out and snagged the grounder, but Riley Church couldn’t handle the short hop at first, allowing pinch runner Luke Purcell scored from third.
Even with the run, Orren, Carnes and Ben Shirley combined to strand 10 Farragut runners and keep the Rebels in the game.
“We just want to try our best,” Carnes said of leaving runners on base. “I just try to throw the ball where it needs to go. I always put the most effort that I can into my pitching and that usually leads to good things happening out there. I can trust my defense behind me and just let them make plays.
As for Friday’s game at Dobyns-Bennet, the message is simple. The Rebels just want to re-group, then comeback and play baseball.
“I think we played well today,” Carnes said. “I wish we would’ve hit a little better, but we played a good game. I think we just need to straighten up, get stronger mentally and just go up to Dobyns-Bennett and play better than the other team.”