’Toppers come up empty in AAA baseball

Jeff Birchfield • May 15, 2012 at 10:26 PM

DANDRIDGE — Austin Hutchinson pitched a two-hitter and Colton Bales slammed a three-run home run in the fourth inning to lead Jefferson County to a 4-0 victory over Science Hill in the Region 1-AAA baseball semifinals Tuesday night at Patriot Park.

The Patriots improved to 29-7 on the season and will host Dobyns-Bennett in a regional championship game today at 6 p.m. The Hilltoppers finished their season 28-11.

Science Hill coach Ryan Edwards said the loss on Tuesday didn’t define the season.

“I’m very proud of our team, our eight seniors, and the hard-fought effort they’ve given,” Edwards said. “They have nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to be disappointed about.

“Obviously, this game didn’t go the way we wanted. Credit their pitcher. He stopped our offense, but this one game doesn’t define these kids.”

The Hilltoppers had another championship season, tying Dobyns-Bennett for the Big Eight Conference crown and getting the No. 1 seed for the District 1-AAA tournament.

Against Jefferson County, they had Malik Stephens as a runner for Will Craig on third base in the first inning, and J.T. Torbett on third base in the third inning, but two strikeouts and a pop-up to the shortstop ended the scoring opportunities.

Much of the credit went to Hutchinson, who gave up one walk and struck out five to improve to 9-0. He led throughout the contest after Blake Paschal hit an RBI ground out to score leadoff hitter Jake Farr in the bottom of the first.

“That one run in the first was huge for us,” Jefferson County head coach Josh Warner said. “But what do you say about Hutch? He’s pitched like that all year, and he shut down a great team over there.”

Craig (7-3) suffered the loss despite giving up just three hits and aiding his cause by getting on base twice.

Both coaches commented that Craig pitched well enough to win, although Warner felt confident about his team facing the Hilltoppers’ ace.

“We had three or four days to prepare for Craig, and this was the most prepared I’ve had a team in a long time,” he said. “We took a lot of batting practice, and my coaches were really throwing it to them.

“I told the guys to just get on base and something would happen. Sure enough, Colton had the big hit. That’s one thing we’ve done well this year. We’ve had a lot of timely hits.”

The Hilltoppers’ head coach added, “Credit Bales for getting hold of that one. They put the runners on for their best hitter and he got the big hit. That’s baseball.”

Science Hill wasn’t able to get any of those timely hits, limited to a pair of singles by Scott Hoilman and Justin Snyder with no runners on.

The loss was a tough pill for Science Hill to swallow after the teams split during the regular season.

After an emotional meeting with his team, Edwards was able to look at the overall season and feel a sense of accomplishment. The ‘Toppers started the year 5-5 before winning 22 of their next 25 games.

“We expected to win, so we are disappointed right now,” he said. “But, I’m proud of what these kids were able to accomplish this year, winning another conference and getting out of a tough district. I’m really proud of them.”

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