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Six area teams have eyes on Murfreesboro

Douglas Fritz • Updated May 16, 2019 at 8:10 PM

One more step.

That is all that stands between six area baseball and softball teams and a trip to the Spring Fling in Murfreesboro, where the state tournaments will be held next week.

It’s the TSSAA’s sectional round and games are scheduled for Friday. In baseball, Science Hill (Class AAA), Elizabethton (Class AA), and University High (Class A) will hit the road. Tennessee High will play host for a Class AAA contest.

In softball, Class A Unaka and Class AA Sullivan East are at home.

Here’s a brief look at each matchup.

BASEBALL

Science Hill (26-12) at Hardin Valley (21-13), 6:30 p.m.

The Hilltoppers probably got a break when the Hawks upset Knox Farragut. There are several reasons, including the fact Farragut had beaten Hardin three times before stubbing its toes in Wednesday’s Region 2-AAA final with 5-2 loss. Ranked No. 1 in the state, the Admirals had won 30 straight games.

Hardin Valley’s record isn’t flashy, but it played a brutal schedule. The Hawks’ pitching has been inconsistent, but they have some big-time arms in junior Lukas Cook (low 90s mph velocity and has committed to the University of South Carolina) and senior Bryce Jenkins (mid 80s).

The Hawks, who won the Class AAA state title in 2015, have a lineup with plenty of sticks, including Jenkins, Cook, Cam Fisher, Conner Hubler and Jared Lugo.

Knox Farragut (37-3) at Tennessee High (25-11), 6 p.m.

Congratulations on your first region title in almost 40 years, Vikings. Your reward is having to beat the state’s top-ranked team to get to The Boro.

Admirals’ junior ace Ryan Hagenow (high 80s mph) has committed to the University of Kentucky and used only 53 pitches Monday, so he should be fresh.

Farragut has 10 players committed for college baseball, including seven likely headed for Division I. The Admirals have won nine state titles, but none since 2014.

Plus, the Vikings have to contend with a team that has lost two straight sectional games. The Admirals will likely be breathing fire to end their state tournament drought.

Elizabethton (25-8) at Alcoa (33-5), 6 p.m.

The Tornadoes have plenty of arms, boasting 15 games allowing one run or less. In the postseason, they have outscored their opponents 37-3 in five games.

Chattanooga State commit Will Shelton (mid 80s mph) threw a one-hitter with 11 strikeouts and one walk in Monday’s region semifinal win over Corryton Gibbs. He threw a three-hitter with eight strikeouts and no walks and one unearned run in his previous start, and has a no-hitter on his resume.

Elizabethton is trying to make its second straight state tournament appearance while Alcoa looks for its second berth in school history, the other coming in 2004.

University High (25-13) at Harriman (18-16), 6 p.m.

The Blue Devils have been through an odd season. They started 4-10, but are eight games over .500 since then. They got blasted twice in the district tournament (13-5 and 16-2), but bounced back to beat Lookout Valley 4-1 in the region semifinals.

Then they beat the same Wartburg team that dusted them in the district title game by a 15-run margin (19-4) in the region finals.

Brandon Turpin went the distance for the Blue Devils against Lookout Valley and seems the best bet to get the ball against UH.

SOFTBALL

Alcoa (23-10) at Sullivan East (28-15), 6 p.m.

This sets up nicely for the Lady Patriots, who seek their first-ever trip to the state tournament. They avoided the low-chance-of-victory visit to Gibbs by knocking off Grainger in the regional final, and Alcoa doesn’t boast an earth-shattering resume.

The Lady Tornadoes haven’t been to the state tournament since 2006, and boast only one signature win this season — a March victory over Class AA sectional entrant Sweetwater. Meanwhile, East has signature wins in three of its last five games (Unicoi County, Greeneville and Grainger).

Tellico Plains (16-14) at Unaka (23-21), 6 p.m.

It looks like a tough sell for a program seeking its first state tournament berth since 1995 and only the second ever. The Lady Bears are trying to make history as they meet a Unaka team that seeks its third straight state appearance and fifth in the last 10 years.

Also, Tellico’s season has ended in the unfriendly confines of Unaka’s field in each of the last two seasons — although last year’s game was a close 2-1 battle.

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