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Back to State for Friendship
May 21, 2007 12:00 am
When Friendship Christian fell behind and missed a couple of early scoring chances, painful memories of last year's sectional loss to Lookout Valley could have returned.
But G.L. Waynick turned momentum around with a two-run homer and Brian Cravens shut the door on Chattanooga School for the Arts & Sciences down the stretch as the Commanders returned to Spring Fling after a one-year absence with a 5-2 victory Friday afternoon.
The Patriots jumped to a 2-0 first-inning lead and left-hander James Dickson, on the mound because the father of a starting infielder died of a heart attack Thursday night, turned the Commanders away in the first two innings before a leaky defense and a bout of wildness tied the score in the bottom of the third.
Then G.L. Waynick stepped to the plate. Normally the cleanup hitter, Waynick was swapped with Jon Miller at No. 6 when Coach John McNeal learned the Patriots were pitching a left-hander. With few at-bats as a right-hander, Waynick launched a two-run shot over the wall just to the left of the 360 sign in center field to put Friendship in front 4-2.
"G.L. had a big day and gave us the lead and after that, Cravens got going and shut them down," McNeal said after his Commanders clinched a trip to the State Tournament with a 26-12 record. "I told [Waynick and Miller] after the game it was probably the best move I made, moving G.L. into the six-hole where he could get those hits. I'll claim it anyway.
"He just doesn't hit right-handed a whole lot, of all of his at-bats this year, probably 10 or less have been right-handed."
"It felt good," Waynick said of the home run. "He's a slower pitcher. He just threw it in there and it got hit."
Following a walk to Stephen Pryor, right-hander Matt Jones, who McNeal was expecting to see on the mound, was waved in from third base with Dickson going to second as a rare left-handed middle infielder.
"They had their second baseman's father die last night of a heart attack so he wasn't able to come," McNeal said. "That put them in a bind of having to throw the lefty to keep their infield intact.
"A lot of things on their minds, I'm sure. It made them change some things we weren't ready for. We were expecting the righty."
With the lead, Cravens was in control, allowing only two hits following the first inning, four total, with two walks and eight strikeouts.
"First inning, I just got a little jittery and didn't get ahead of my batters and then after that, I went pretty good, got my nerves down and started throwing my game better," Cravens said. "This year our team's just pulled together a whole lot better and we played the full seven innings instead of letting down an inning or two."
Back-to-back leadoff walks to Nick Peppers and James Dickson led to an RBI double by Josh Hamill and a sacrifice fly to center by Jones. Center-fielder Bryant Alsup threw to second to double off Hamill, otherwise Zach Phillips' ensuing double could have made it 3-0.
"We walked the first two, which is something Cravens hadn't been doing," said McNeal moments after the getting the victorious Gatorade shower. "They got the big hit when they needed it and the two guys that walked scored and they usually do, when they walk they score."
That rule didn't work for Friendship in the bottom of the first when Alsup reached on an error and Lee Maasen walked as Dickson struck out the side. An inning later, Waynick singled and Pryor walked, but Dickson again got out of the jam.
But he couldn't escape a pair of errors in the third as Maasen and Cravens slid home on wild pitches, two of the four he uncorked with the two on bases. Mitchell walked to set up Waynick.
"We didn't get the hit like they did," McNeal said of the first two innings.
Maasen tripled off the center-field wall to lead off the fourth and was awarded home when the relay throw sailed into Friendship's dugout.
Arts & Sciences finished a 22-9 season with the five of the losses coming against Region 3-A champion Lookout Valley.
Friendship is scheduled to play around 6 p.m. Tuesday at Riverdale against the Adamsville-Huntingdon winner. But it was Friday's game which was the real pressure-cooker to McNeal.
"I'll feel relaxed and just play and what happens next week happens - not that I'm satisfied being there. I told them, 'No, we're going out there to compete and win'," McNeal said. "But the pressure of getting there is more so than when you get there, at least it has been to me. Over the years that we've played this game, and we've played it a whole lot, 10-11 times we've been in this situation, it's a lot more nerve-wracking in this game than it is once we get there because we know that's where we're at. It's it. We're going to end the season in Murfreesboro one way or the other."
Franklin turns back Golden Bears 12-3
FRANKLIN — Anything that could go wrong for Mt. Juliet did Friday night as Franklin stopped the Golden Bears one game shy of the State Tournament 12-3.
And many of the Mt. Juliet mishaps were self-inflicted as the Golden Bears committed six errors, leading to eight unearned runs against seniors Taylor Hill and B.J. Boston as MJ's season ended on the Williamson County road in the sectional for the second straight year at 34-12.
"They had several big [hits] and one of them was a fly ball when the sun was going down with two runners on that we couldn't find and the two runs scored and that changed the momentum of the game," Mt. Juliet coach Mark Purvis said of the third-inning play which brought Franklin into a 3-3 tie. "They hit the ball hard and we made key mistakes and when we did, they got another big hit."
Hill, the Vanderbilt-signee who is expected to be picked in next month's pro draft, allowed eight runs [two earned] in 3 1/3 innings, leaving during Franklin's five-run fourth inning. Boston came in for the final 2 2/3 frames and surrendered four sixth-inning tallies [two earned]. The pair gave up 10 hits.
Mt. Juliet took a 3-1 lead with three in the top of the second inning. Caleb Knox walked and Holden Richmond singled. Tyler Carr's sharply-hit grounder into the hole on a 3-2 pitch with the runners moving hit Knox, forcing him out. Lance Harrington followed with a tying RBI single and Hill hit a go-ahead two-run double.
"It was one of those nights where things just didn't go our way," said Purvis, who saw seven seniors play their final games in Mt. Juliet uniforms. "These seven seniors are quality kids and great leaders. It was a special team this year.
"It didn't end the way we wanted. But when we look back on it, it was a great year."
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 17 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.