MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – McCallie’s baseball team had the biggest surprises at the TSSAA Spring Fling this week.
The Blue Tornado’s chances of a deep run in Division II-AA looked bleak when they lost star senior pitcher Austin Breedlove to injury during the second game of the postseason, losing 3-2 to Pope John Paul II in the first-round series. two weeks ago. However, the deep staff has not let the ace fall down as juniors Grayson Smith and Olin Johnson have delivered huge performances to spur a streak of winning five title games into Friday’s double elimination state tournament championship round at Wilson Central High School.
McCallie had to win just one more game to be the champion, while his opponent had to beat the Blue Tornado twice to secure the title. The other two remaining teams are Knoxville Catholic and Nashville’s Lipscomb Academy, which started the losing-bracket final on Wednesday before hanging out with the Catholics winning 3-2 in the top of the sixth inning with runners in third base and two outs.
With inclement weather in the Murfreesboro area, the TSSAA postponed all baseball and softball games on Thursday, so the elimination game will now take place in the Eastern afternoon on Friday, with the championship game to resume.
“We’ve got a good wave at the end of the season where it’s all over,” Blue Tornado head coach Tim Costo said. “We have great chemistry on the team, and our guys play a good defense, our pitcher is tackled and our bat is coupled. This run is really good because we’ve been underdogs all year. No one expects us to be where we are. We just keep preaching to be patient with the process because we’re going to sneak in some people. ”
McCallie (26-12-1) has the makeup of a state champion. The pitching staff has a 2.59 ERA with 319 strikeouts in 256 1/3 innings, a strong defense has a .952 fielding percentage and Blue Tornado runners have stolen 97 bases.
Despite dropping two of three games each to rivals Baylor and Knoxville Catholic areas in the regular season, the Blue Tornado stormed into the championship round thanks to an undefeated Tuesday 3-2, six-inning win over Baylor and an 8-2 thumping Catholic.
“Grayson Smith really helped us start on the right foot shutting down the Baylor line,” Costo said of the junior who has 78 strikeouts and a 1.68 ERA. “He’s been an incredible leader for our pitching staff, which is full of great weapons.”
Johnson has had three wins in McCallie’s streak, all games done while making a combined 27 batters.
Sophomore J. Michael Pierce has provided a heroic end with a pair of six-inning RBIs in each of McCallie’s two wins at Wilson Central this week, and Hudson Calhoun has also swung a hot bat with five hits in the Spring Fling. Sebastian Leinberger’s go-ahead single RBI against Baylor was the difference Tuesday, and Carter Hewitt’s three RBI performance was all the firepower needed Wednesday against Catholic.
McCallie won his first TSSAA state baseball title in 1976, then added a second in 2014.
“We want to bring one more back to the Big Blue,” said Hewitt, who leads the team with a batting average of .387, 18 extra hits and 30 RBI. “We beat some very tough teams to come here. Everyone on our team deserves to win the state championship.”
In the DII-AA softball tournament, Baylor and GPS are scheduled to play in the final bracket winners at 12:30 pm East Friday, but the game is postponed to Friday with the same start time. In addition, Chattanooga Christian’s game against Tipton-Rosemark in the losing bracket will be played at 11 a.m., with the winner going to face the loser between Baylor and GPS in the elimination game.
Contact Patrick MacCoon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @PMacCoon.