Rose Park was the place to be Saturday for those who can’t get enough of baseball.
When the dust — more accurately, the rain — had cleared, four tense games were completed and two winners began to pack for the BlueCross state tournament, Montgomery Bell Academy in Division II-AA, Franklin Road Academy in Division II-A.
It took MBA three games to shake off Brentwood Academy in their sectional series, and the decisive victory came Saturday morning. Then FRA had to play three games in seven hours to earn its place at Spring Fling.
The entire MBA-BA series was moved to Rose Park, Belmont University’s home field on Edgehill Avenue, because the field is made of synthetic turf and can absorb rain.
The teams split two games Friday and played the third at 10 a.m. Saturday in order to leave time for FRA and University School of Jackson to begin their series at noon. FRA’s field was unplayable as well.
Fans who hung around the whole day got to see dugouts emptying into joyous dogpiles after their. The final pitch came around 7:15 p.m.
In the middle of MBA’s dogpile was senior pitcher/third baseman Penn Murfee. He pitched a shutout and accounted for all of the scoring in a 2-0 Big Red victory Friday with a two-run home run over the left-field fence in the sixth inning. BA’s Will Haynie pitched a 4-1 win in the nightcap, which sent the teams to an early-morning wakeup call Saturday.
Murfee, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound slugger, drove in a key run in the sixth and sparked MBA to a 6-2 victory in the decisive contest. The Big Red pulled away with two runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth. Tristan Chari and Charlie Hawkins singled and scored in the fifth, then Murfee and David Harrison singled, pulled double steal and scored on an error sixth.
“After two years of just missing state, it was great to finally get there my senior year,” Murfee, a Vanderbilt signee, said. “We were put out by BGA [which won the title last year]. We have six seniors, and it’s great to share this with them.
“[Fellow senior] Dallas Gibson and I have been the only two on the team together for the entire time, and he has been huge for us.”
Hawkins retired the last seven Eagles batters he faced and earned win for MBA (18-17). BA won two of three in the regular season.
“I cannot put into words how happy I am for these guys,” first-year coach Mike Anderson said. “They have worked so hard to get where they are today. The record is maybe a little deceiving in that we played really tough schedule early, we went out to Phoenix and played O’Connor High, a team ranked No. 5 in the country, and we played several other good teams.”
MBA meets old rival Memphis University School in its state tournament opener.
TRIPLE PLAY: FRA literally had to work almost all day to finally lay claim to its state tournament berth.
Behind senior Matt Hissong, the Panthers won the opener 3-1 but blew a three-run lead and lost 7-6 in the second.
The teams didn’t want to play Sunday so that forced a third game, which started at about 5 p.m.
Sophomore slugger Keeling Hunter got the Panthers off to a good start with a two-run home run to left in the first. Murphy Chambliss went 3-for-3 with a walk (he was 7-for-10 for the day) and FRA rambled to a convincing 10-5 win in the third game.
“He made a good pitch, and I got all of it,” Hunter said just after emerging from the day’s second dogpile. “I knew it was gone as soon as I hit it. It was really big, because it got us off to a good start. It is good to get back to state, and I hope we can take it a long way.”
Asked if he ever played or coached a day when his team played three games, coach George Weicker said, “I cannot ever remember that before. But it was worth it. I remember playing in a 22-inning game down in Venezuela right after I played for the Sounds [in 1979], which was almost like three games, and it seemed like it was about 120 degrees, really hot.
“When we lost that second game [Saturday] in such a tough way, I told our guys to keep focusing on the next game, don’t worry about the past. Hopefully, we can do a little damage in the state tournament.”
The Panthers (29-5) will take on Evangelical Christian School in their state tournament opener Tuesday at LaVergne.