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Commanders prevail in 14-inning marathon

May 15—Graduation day for Friendship Christian's 2024 baseball senior class won't forget last Saturday.

Some 12 hours after receiving their diplomas, the Commanders finally grabbed their first lead of the State XII first-round game when Caleb Kring dove across home plate on Elijah Stockton's sacrifice fly to left field in the 14th inning, lifting Friendship to a 7-6 win over visiting First Assembly Christian, setting off fireworks behind the John McNeal Stadium outfield after 11:30 p.m.

Because of commencements at both schools, the game didn't begin until 7 p.m. The Crusaders took a chartered bus from Cordova, a Memphis suburb.

It appeared several times the charter would be a party bus on the return trip as the Crusaders led 2-0 in the third inning, 5-2 in the 12th and 6-5 in the 14th. But the Commanders beat the 10-count each time in a remarkably well-played game which didn't see its first error until the 12th.

The key play may have come in the top of the 14th when, with runners on first and second, FACS' Evan Bloomer doubled off the base of the wall in left-center field. The lead runner scored to break a 5-5 tie, but the trail runner was stopped at third base with no one out.

Commander coach John McNeal took Ayden Moore out of the game after seven workhorse innings of relief behind starter Quin Long, who worked six. Sam Duckwiler came on and escaped the jam with both runners standing in scoring position where he had inherited them.

The lanky right-hander was rewarded with his third win of the season with no losses (with a 1.28 earned-run average) when Luke Sellars, struggling at the plate but spectacular in right field, beat out infield single to score Adam Gordon with the tying run. That brought up Stockton, whose fly ball to left field sent Kring sprinting and sliding to home plate, triggering a celebration in the infield and fireworks beyond the outfield as the Commanders climbed to 29-12-1 for the season and booked a trip to Chattanooga and a best-of-3 state quarterfinal starting today at Boyd-Buchanan.

It's not known what the longest game in terms of innings is or whether this was the latest-played game in Friendship history. But considering its importance, it has to rate among the most dramatic.

Even McNeal, who has manned the dugout and third-base coaching box since 1993, wasn't sure. He did know either team could have ended it sooner as both had every opportunity, especially in extra innings. Friendship left 15 runners on base and FACS stranded 13.

"I didn't know what time it was," McNeal said. "We had plenty of opportunities and didn't do it. And then they did make opportunities and that's when we found ways to score.

"We answered when we had to."

Josh Wright's RBI double to the center-field wall scored the tiebreaking run in the 12th to break the 2-2 tie. The game's first error scored another run and, with Friendship down 5-2 when the third out was recorded, the Commanders' situation appeared bleak.

But Friendship drew 14 walks off four FACS pitchers and that gave the Commanders life as Friendship scored two runs on fielder's choice grounders and the Crusaders' only error in the bottom of the 12th to keep the game going.

FACS used its speed and timely hitting to manufacture a couple of runs in the third inning.

The Commanders finally got on the board in the fifth when D. Boone poked an RBI single into right field. They tied the score an inning later when Jacob Chapman dove across the plate on Hayden Holleman's RBI single. Chapman was courtesy-running for catcher Mason Hallum, who the Crusaders could not get out all night as he went 3-for-3 with a double and drew four walks, including an intentional pass in extra innings.

Moore allowed four runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out seven as he dueled with FACS left-hander Kaden Haurtunian, who gave up just one hit but eight walks which turned into three runs (two earned) while striking out nine in four innings.

Long gave up two runs on five hits and three walks while striking out seven as he went against Bloomer, who was charged with two runs on six hits and two walks while punching out 10 in seven innings.

Henry Jones was brought in from center field to relieve Hartunian in the 12th and, despite having trouble finding the plate, worked a scoreless inning while walking two. William Lee started the 13th and eventually took the loss.

"Both teams got into their pitching," McNeal said. "They pitched their two best and we pitched our two best. All four pitchers did a great job and then you rely on who you have left. Duckwiler came in and did the job for us. What was it, second and third and no outs and didn't give up a run? That was huge. That was the big part right there, not giving up any runs when he came in with second and third."

FACS outhit Friendship 12-10. Gordon doubled and singled while Holleman was credited with two RBIs.

Gametimes were not available at presstime for the series at Boyd-Buchanan. The teams will play a single game today. The second game will be tomorrow with the "if necessary" contest to follow. The winner will advance to the final four next week in Murfreesboro as the Commanders seek their first Spring Fling appearance since going to Division II in 2013, the year after winning their most recent championship. Buccaneers coach Stephen Pryor, Friendship's only major-leaguer to date, was one of the main pitchers on FCS' 2007 state title team.

Green Hill finishes second in 6-4A, travels to Nolensville for best-of-3 sectional

HENDERSONVILLE — Green Hill won 2 of 3 games in the Region 6-4A tournament last weekend to advance to this week's sectional.

Playing at Beech, the Hawks handled Hillsboro 10-0 last Friday to advance to Saturday's championship where they lost to the host Buccaneers 4-3. They rebounded to blank John Overton 5-0 in the consolation final to claim second place.

Green Hill will travel to Nolensville today with a 26-9 record to begin a best-of-3 sectional series with the winner advancing to next week's state tournament. Game 2 will be tomorrow with the "if necessary" game to follow Friday. Gametimes will be at 6 p.m. each day.

Joey Greenstreet pitched a seven-inning one-hitter against Overton with no walks and six strikeouts, facing just one batter over the minimum.

Green Hill scored single runs in the third, fourth and sixth innings with two in the fifth.

The Hawks had seven hits, including two singles each by Greenstreet and Nick Owens Jr., and a double by Gabe Gray.

Beech scored twice in the bottom of the sixth inning to overcome a Green Hill edge, tagging Micah Summar with the loss. The left-hander surrendered four runs (three earned) on eight hits with a walk and six strikeouts. Three of the Bucs' hits were home runs.

Green Hill had three hits, including doubles by Beasley and Owens. Owens drove in two runs for the Hawks, who went in front 3-2 in the top of the sixth.

The Hawks took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Beech tied the score in the third and went in front in the fifth.

Green Hill reached the final by run-ruling Hillsboro on Friday as Dom Waller drove in five runs on two homers, including a grand slam in the Hawks' six-run sixth inning.

The Hawks took a 3-0 lead in the third inning and added their fourth score in the fifth as they finished with nine hits. Waller had three of the hits while Beasley and Griggs Chandler each chipped in two and Landon Dalton a double.

Wilson Central falls short of sectional

MURFREESBORO — In a tournament which sends two teams to the next event, Wilson Central finished third in the Region 4-4A tourney last weekend at Riverdale.

The Wildcats were ousted by the host Warriors 6-1 in Saturday's consolation finale. Earlier, Central remained alive with a 7-6 win over Stewarts Creek. The 'Cats fell into the loser's bracket Friday with a 2-0 loss to Siegel.

Riverdale jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first inning and never looked back as Central finished a 25-12 season.

Colton Vivrette allowed three runs in two innings to take the loss. Ryan Judd and Cameron Thomas each tossed two innings in relief as the trio surrendered eight hits. Four errors resulted in all but two of the runs being unearned.

Gabe Hildabrand drove in Central's run in the top of the seventh. The Wildcats finished with five hits, including a double by Ed Sirovy.

Central scored in the bottom of the sixth inning to snap a 6-6 tie with Stewarts Creek.

Carson Reed pitched five innings in relief of Vivrette for the win after the Red Hawks jumped to a 4-0 lead midway through the second inning.

Central outhit Stewarts Creek 10-9. Luke Kinzer had three hits as he and Will Summers doubled while Carter Spencer singled twice.

Siegel scored the only runs of its first-round game in the fifth inning on a single by Drew Hostetler to tag Buckner with the loss. Buckner allowed five hits and two walks while striking out eight in seven innings.

Each team finished with five hits. Central's Luke Shaughnessy's double was the only extra-base hit.

Watertown misses chances to advance

WHITE HOUSE — Watertown had a chance to win the Region 3-2A tournament, then had a second opportunity to advance to the sectional but also fell short last Saturday at White House-Heritage.

After shutting out Westmoreland 4-0 in last Friday's first round, the Purple Tigers were trounced 11-1 in Saturday's championship game by the host Patriots. With a chance to get a sectional berth, Watertown was outscored by District 5-3A rival Smith County 9-6 in the consolation final.

The Owls jumped to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning and never looked back as they added to their advantage enough to keep the Tigers from catching up.

C.J. Potter gave up all four runs to take the loss. Three more pitchers followed to the mound as the quartet surrendered 12 hits.

Watertown's six hits weren't enough to prevent the Purple Tigers' season from ending at 27-7. Potter drove in three runs on two hits as he and Zeb Major doubled. Bret Price also produced a pair of hits.

White House Heritage broke a 1-1 tie with a run in the third inning and broke the game open with seven in the fifth to tag Major with the loss.

The Patriots outhit the Purple Tigers 13-2.

Major drove in Watertown's run which pulled the Purple into a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the second against Tyler Zeligman, who survived five walks while striking out six in seven innings for the Patriots.

Zack Self surrendered three singles in his shutout of Westmoreland with three walks and 10 strikeouts.

Watertown totaled eight hits. Major and Kwame Seay each singled twice while Self and Cyrus Bennett doubled.