Peyton Smith drove in four runs over two innings for the Panthers (32-13), who down 4-0, roared back with five runs in the third inning and three in the fourth. The Hilltoppers (27-14), led by a 2-for-3 effort by Matthew Levi, ended a season which they made the state tournament for a second straight year.
“It’s a special group of players and I’m proud of their effort,” Science Hill coach Ryan Edwards said. “They put together a great season after we had our ups and downs early. They bought into the team and each other. They really caught fire and played their best baseball in May.
“You want to play better down here (at the state tournament), but sometimes when you play great teams down here, that can exploit where you don’t play as well in some areas.”
It was certainly the case with the Panthers, who had 12 hits with Brayden Arendale going 4-for-4 and Jalen Fithian at 3-for-4 with two runs scored.
Science Hill scored a run in each of the first two innings and two in the top of the third for the early lead.
Caleb Marmo had a double in the game’s first at-bat. After he stole third, Levi had a RBI ground out for the first run. Jack Torbett provided a RBI single to plate Jackson Hill for the second run.
Levi scored on an error and Conner Hyatt had a RBI double to score Cade McCoy for the final runs.
Over two state tournament games, Torbett drove in four runs, while McCoy and Hyatt each scored twice.
Cole Torbett went 2 2/3 innings for the Hilltoppers and suffered the loss. Andrew Miller went two-thirds of an inning before Garrett Gleason closed it out.
Arendale went the distance for the Panthers, giving up seven hits, but no walks. He added to the offense with a solo home run, while Smith had a two-run homer.
For the Hilltoppers, they certainly got a tough side of the bracket, facing Summit’s Blake Money, who is committed to LSU, in the first round. They were guaranteed to play either Bartlett or another traditional power in Farragut in their second game.
“Honestly, the best pitcher down here was the guy we saw yesterday. He threw 25 of 28 first-pitch strikes at 93 mph and was throwing 93 in the seventh inning,” Edwards said. “That was tough to overcome. You have to play almost flawless baseball to beat a guy like that. Today, we came out and swung the bats well to get the lead, but those guys can hit.”
The run to the state wasn’t predicted by many early in the season when the team was 4-4, although Edwards didn’t like the term rebuilding year.
With four seniors — Ben Edwards, Alex Elmore, Cade McCoy and Jackson Hill —in the lineup and three senior pitchers — Drew Honeycutt, Andrew Miller and Garrett Gleason — the Hilltoppers ended the season by winning the District 1-AAA title, beating Hardin Valley in the sectional round and leading both of their state tournament games.
“I don’t mean this in a bad way. People can call it rebuilding, reloading, but every team is new and has to learn to compete,” Coach Edwards said. “That is the key to every season to learn how to compete, I don’t care if you’re a freshman or a senior. This game of baseball is tough on you mentally and every team has to learn how to do that. This group became a team and did that.”