Looking up at a scoreboard and seeing your opponent put up a nine-spot before you even come to bat would be a bit discouraging to most teams.
But that wasn’t enough to deter Brentwood Academy, which won its third straight DII-AA state baseball championship Thursday. The Eagles somehow fought their way back to topple Memphis University School in a17-14 slugfest in the finals at Wilson Central High School.
Senior outfielder Cody Nelson summed things up when asked about the dire situation facing the Eagles: “Brentwood Academy never gives up. We never quit.”
As a result, BA became the first team to win three straight baseball championships in TSSAA history, something that amazed coach Buddy Alexander.
“I have to say that I’m surprised by that,” he said. “There have been so many great teams like Farragut and Oakland, teams like that. For us to be the first is amazing.”
Senior pitcher/first baseman Will Blalock, who has been a key figure in all three championships, turned in an iron-man day. Blalock belted two home runs, one of them a grand slam, which pulled his team to within 14-12, and drove in eight runs.
Oh yes, and Blalock pitched two scoreless innings of relief to earn the save. He struck out two in the final inning and was fittingly named tournament MVP.
MUS’ nine-run first was highlighted by a three-run homer by Landon Finney and a two-run shot by Jason Mannis. It appeared certain that the Owls would win and force a second winner take-all matchup.
But BA fought back on a Blalock sacrifice fly and a Nathan Renfro RBI double in the first, then Blalock then hit a three-run homer to right in the second and pulled the Eagles to within 11-7.
“I was prepared to stay out here until eight o’clock at night if that was what it was what it would take,” Blalock, a Lipscomb signee, said.
As the game ended on a strikeout, he fell to the ground in joy as his teammates rushed in to jump on top of the winning dog pile.
“I was gassed out at the end, and I just thank the Lord for pulling me through,” Blalock said. “I love these guys, they fight and never give up and do whatever they need to do to win.”
Freshman Will Haynie went 2-for-3 with five RBIs, and only a diving catch by MUS second baseman William Cross in the sixth kept him from a perfect day at the plate. His three-run homer to center gave the Eagles the lead for good, 16-14. And he pitched two middle innings to get the win.
“We just wanted to chip away, try to get one-two runs every inning, to stay in it,” said the lanky 6-4, 195-pound Haynie. “We never gave up.”
Said Alexander: “We told our guys, don’t get run-ruled (10 runs behind). If they were going to win the first game, make them earn it, use a lot of pitchers, go deep into their staff.”
Nelson figured prominently in that strategy.
“My job is to get on base,” the leadoff batter, who scored four runs and got on base five straight times (1-for-1 with two walks and two hit by pitches) said. “We have so many good hitters behind me.”
His lone hit was a perfect squeeze bunt to score Mason Sutton, who had doubled and went to third on a sacrifice, with the final run in the Eagle sixth. Nelson, also a standout QB in football, has signed with Centre (Ky.) to play football and also plans to walk on in baseball.
Andy Lennington and No. 9 batter Tyler Berlin scored three runs each.
“We don’t attract a lot of scouts who come to our games, but we have a solid group of guys who really work hard,” Alexander said. “We’re a pretty well-kept secret.”
“Football is the sport that put our school on the map,” Blalock said. “But baseball is putting us at a new level.”
It’s a level no other baseball team ever has achieved.