The Hilltoppers spotted the Trailblazers six runs in the top of the first inning, but rallied for a 9-8 victory Sunday in the second round of the District 1-AAA tournament at Warren Miller Field.
Grant Rabbitts pitched two innings of scoreless relief to improve to 6-1 and J.T. Torbett’s walk-off single with none out in the seventh scored Jordan Holly with the winning run as Science Hill registered its third comeback win of the season against Boone.
The Hilltoppers (29-6) will take on Dobyns-Bennett (29-4-1) tonight at 7:30 in the winners’ bracket final. The Indians beat Tennessee High 12-2 in five innings in Sunday's opener.
Boone (19-13) will play Tennessee High (16-15) today at 5 p.m. in an elimination game.
Science Hill overcame a 7-2 deficit to beat the Trailblazers in Gray in the teams' previous meeting.
“Honestly, I felt like we were in this game more than when we were down 7 to 2,” Science Hill coach Ryan Edwards said. “I don’t know why that is ... but I just felt like we were not out of this game, you know, even though we got down six to nothing.”
Holly led off the bottom of the seventh by reaching on a throwing error. Ensuing batter Tucker McPherson fouled a bunt on the first pitch, and the Trailblazers’ corner infielders charged aggressively. So Science Hill assistant Andy Wallen elected to have McPherson swing away on the 0-1 pitch, and his chopper bounced well over the head of a charging Josh Bacon into left field to put runners at second and third with none out.
"It pretty much scared us out of bunting," Edwards said. "So we just swung away and it worked out."
Torbett ended the drama quickly, lining a 1-0 pitch into center field to conclude yet another comeback victory in the series.
“Most people, I think, would panic,” Torbett said. “But we’ve been in that situation quite a bit before. So for us, it was just a matter of cutting it in half and working back. And that’s what we did. ...
“Coach Wallen just told me to really focus on seeing it to left field and making sure I didn’t pull out on it. So that’s what I did. And I’ve gotta give props to Tucker getting a great piece and Holly running it out. It was just an all-around team effort.”
Science Hill tied the score at 8 with a four-run fourth that included Matt Thigpen’s two-run home run, his first of the season.
Kyle Ouellette started the fourth-inning rally with a one-out double. Connell Boyle also had a double in the fourth. His one-out double to right-center field scored Addison Adams to tie the score at 8.
Rabbitts allowed one baserunner in two innings of relief, and that was on an intentional walk. He struck out one with a tight-breaking offspeed pitch.
“That was the best stuff he’s had all year,” Edwards said. “He’s been good all year, but that was really good.”
Cameron Clabough’s three-run double highlighted the Trailblazers’ six-run first against Science Hill starter Daniel Sweeney, who wasn’t done many favors by a defense that committed five of the game’s nine errors. Five of the eight runs Sweeney allowed in five-plus innings were earned. He allowed one earned run during his final 4 2/3 innings before leaving after allowing fellow East Tennessee State signee Daniel Cox a leadoff single in the sixth on Sweeney's 85th pitch.
"I was proud of Sweeney," Edwards said. "I mean, come on, you give up six runs in the first and then just battle, battle, battle. He pitched his heart out and really ran out of gas because of that first inning. And it’s hard to take a senior out with the game tied in the sixth inning like that, but I felt like he was out of gas and they were the fourth time through the lineup."
McPherson was 2-for-3, walked and was hit by a pitch. Adams also walked and was hit by a pitch and scored twice. Holly was 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI.
“Give Science Hill credit for battling back after getting down early,” Daniel Boone coach Rob Hoover said. “Mistakes on defense were key on both sides.”
Zach Peters finished 3-for-4 with two RBIs for Boone. Brandon Davis hit a solo home run and scored twice.
“I thought we played really hard and the effort was great,” Hoover said. “I feel like we still have a shot.”
Dobyns-Bennett’s Logan Gentry (8-0) allowed five hits and one earned run in the Indians’ five-inning victory. Christian Bailey had three hits, including two doubles, and three RBIs.
Tennessee High’s Zak Kitzmiller went 2-for-3 after the TSSAA overturned his two-game suspension that’d been imposed when he was ejected for hurdling a catcher’s tag instead of sliding in a win against David Crockett on Saturday.