MJ Middle takes TMSAA baseball title

Staff Reports • Updated May 12, 2014 at 10:40 PM

MURFREESBORO – Mt. Juliet Middle claimed the school’s first-ever TMSAA baseball championship over the weekend by beating host Siegel 3-1 after climbing out of the loser’s bracket.

The Golden Bears, whose only two losses during the season came to Siegel 5-4 and 8-7, finished second in the state last year via a 10-0 loss to Oakland. They also finished second to the Siegel Cavaliers in 2011.

“I’ve seen this in girls’ basketball, but this is the first in baseball,” said Mt. Juliet coach Rick Johnson, also the longtime girls’ hoops coach who has guided the Lady Bears to several championships. “While it’s a great feeling to see the kids win, we always feel good about our kids and their character and work ethic has everything to do with that. They work hard, they stay out of trouble and they make good grades. I’ll never get tired to talking about those qualities.

“This was a hard-fought battle. The odds were definitely against us, but baseball is a great game. It rewards consistent effort more than sporadic excellence, and my guys just wouldn’t quit. I’m looking forward to seeing them at the high school level. Coach [Jim] Carter has some great kids heading that way.”

In the final, Brayden Osborne pitched the full seven innings for the win, shutting out the Cavaliers until the bottom of the seventh before striking out the final batter.

Cal Burgett singled to open the game and scored on Ethan Smith’s single. Smith scored on Dalton Earheart’s single for a 2-0 lead. John Dyer doubled in he third and scored on a misplayed grounder for a 3-0 lead.

Earlier Saturday, Mt. Juliet handed the Cavaliers their first loss 5-3 behind Smith’s home run and three runs scored. Eric Rice racked up three hits and Cade Hoppe two. Aiden Raines and Burgett combined forces on the mound.

Mt. Juliet began Saturday with a 10-2 crushing of Christiana, a team which had knocked the Bears into the loser’s bracket three days earlier. Smith and seventh-grader Warren Lee joined forces on the mound. Dyer drilled three hits and Hoppe, Rice and Trevor Vestal two each.

On Friday, Mt. Juliet beat Oakland for the second time in the tournament, ousting the Chargers 12-8 behind three hits by Hoppe and two apiece by Burgett, Raines, Dyer and Rice. Adam Hagemeyer and seventh-grade reliever Steven Jarrell combined forces on the mound.

Prior to Friday, the tournament was played at different sites throughout Rutherford County. Mt. Juliet was at Rock Springs last Thursday where the Bears beat E.A. Cox 13-3 in five innings behind the pitching of Hoppe.

The day before, host Christiana knocked Mt. Juliet into the loser’s bracket with a 7-2 verdict.

Mt. Juliet drew Oakland in last Tuesday’s opening round. Smith and Osborne each belted two-run homers in the third inning and Hoppe hit a solo blast in the fifth to help Raines and Burgett on the mound.

The Golden Bears entered the tournament on the heels of taking the Wilson County Invitational on May 4 with a 13-3 win over West Wilson in the finals.

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