Spring Fling: BA piles up second straight D-II baseball title

Thursday, May 21, 2009 at 8:18pm
Brentwood Academy players celebrate at home plate after winning their second straight D-II baseball title Thursday. / Mike Strasinger for The City Paper

A year ago Buddy Alexander spent most of his nights during Spring Fling week tossing and turning.

Not so this time as Brentwood Academy cruised to a second consecutive TSSAA Division II-AA championship. The Eagles went undefeated in the 2009 state tournament capped by a 12-2, five-inning victory over St. Benedict on Thursday.

In so doing, BA became just the second D-II school to win two straight baseball titles. Christian Brothers first did it in 2000 and 2001.

“I slept a lot better this year, I can tell you that,” Alexander, the coach, said. “We were solid all year. I think that’s the thing I’m most proud of. The games we lost, we were in. And a lot of teams, we just took it away from them before they had a chance.”

The Eagles (30-6) rebounded from a first-round defeat with four straight victories — two by a single run — when they claimed the 2008 crown.

This time they secured the trophy in just three games and outscored the opposition by a combined 20-5. They scored at least one run in every inning of the championship contest and went ahead to stay in the second.

“We had really good senior leadership last year,” Drew Floyd said. “This year we had several more seniors who were just gung-ho to win it.”

Floyd was one of those seniors, but he missed four weeks of the season with a hamstring injury. His return late in the regular season provided a welcome boost to the offense.

“He has been absolutely killing the ball since he came back,” Alexander said. “That’s pretty good on his part.”

The right fielder went 4-for-4 and was a home run short of the cycle against St. Benedict (28-9). He drove in a run with a first-inning single, had a one-out triple in the third and doubled to lead off the fourth.

After Andy Lennington walked with one out in the fifth, Floyd had a chance to complete the cycle and end the game all at once. Instead, his single to left put Lennington in scoring position for Philip Henninger, whose base hit to right brought the 10-run rule into play.

“We were talking about it before the game – going out there and trying to go out with a bang,” Floyd said. “I got good pitches to hit and just did what I could with them.”

Catcher Thomas Lundborg was 3-for-3 with three RBIs and D.J. Luna and Ben LePere had two hits each. Nine different BA players scored.

Will Blalock pitched a complete game and won for the ninth straight time. He struck out seven, walked two and allowed four hits.

“(Blalock) was pretty good all year,” Alexander said. “We got deep into their pitching. That’s how any baseball tournament is. That could have been us, if they got into our pitching.”

Instead, it turned out to be a tournament triumph the likes of which only one other D-II school has known.

“I’d like to think we’re at least playing with the big boys now,” Alexander said.

Lipscomb run ground to a halt

SMYRNA — Zach Rogers’ groundout probably was a fitting end to Lipscomb’s game against Knoxville Catholic on Thursday. The senior infielder hit the ball hard enough that the shortstop had enough time to throw to first and to retire the 2008 state 100- and 200-meter dash champion.

With that, the Mustangs (29-9) lost 7-4 and were eliminated from the TSSAA Class AA baseball tournament.

“We hit the ball hard, and I guess we hit it at people,” Lipscomb coach Ernie Smith said. “I guess that was the bad part. Boy, there were some hard-hit balls that were right at people.”

Nothing, however, could have been a more inappropriate conclusion to a season for a team that graduated three of its top pitchers from the 2008 state runner-up squad.

The 2009 version of Lipscomb supported a less-accomplished group of arms with consistent and effective hitting, and did so well enough to win district and region championships as well as two games during the state tournament.

In losing to Knoxville Catholic (32-6) for the second time in as many days, though, the Mustangs were out-hit 14-8.

Seven of their eight hits were singles. Knoxville Catholic, on the other hand, got two doubles and a home run from one player, right fielder Dalton Irwin. Shortstop Anthony DiFelice had a two-run home run, which tied the score in the bottom of the first after Lipscomb had jumped out to a 3-0 lead.

The Mustangs also managed just one walk after they had averaged nearly five in their first three state tournament contests.

“We like to get a few runners on base just because the other team puts you on,” Smith said.

Lipscomb tied it 4-4 on Rogers’ RBI single in the fifth, but left two on base in that inning and the next, but the Fighting Irish answered with one in the fifth and two more in the seventh.

Rogers had two hits and two RBIs, and Ryan Emery had two hits, including a double, and a run scored.

“Our best pitchers are two everyday players who are … already signed to play in college, but they’re not going to play on the mound,” Smith said. “They did a good job making due, and then we had a bunch of young kids under them who had to be thrown into the fire.

“…We got a better game, pitching-wise, (on Thursday) than we thought we would. ”

They just didn’t get the hits they expected, and possibly deserved.

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