by Chris Lee
All year, Brentwood Academy coach Buddy Alexander couldn’t get a read on his unpredictable team.
But for the fifth time in his tenure at BA, his squad has a state title.
The Eagles scored four runs in the second, then hung on in the seventh through a big relief inning from Jack Victory, in a 6-5 win over McCallie in the championship game of the TSSAA Division II Class A Baseball Tournament.
BA (23-12) came a long way after dropping the first three games of the season, then, losing four of its last six entering the postseason.
“This team has some characters,” Alexander said. “We’re a diverse bunch, to say the least. … Not sure what they’re thinking sometimes, but they like to win and they play hard. They don’t mind digging in and getting dirty, and that’s the key.”
BA first baseman Easton Cline had the game’s biggest hit, a double to right-center that scored two in the second.
Third baseman Conner Woodlee, right fielder Seth Gonas and left fielder Griffin Hodge led the Eagles with three hits each, with Hodge and Woodley each driving in a run.
Starting pitcher Alex Reynolds survived some rough early innings, pitching six innings and striking out five. The right-hander allowed five runs, four earned.
Alexander then went to Victory, who, off a 1-2 pitch to No. 3 hitter Max Reimer, fielded a bunt perfectly and fired to second for an out.
A wild pitch during the next at bat got Riemer to second. But victory struck out cleanup hitter Ethan Bain, and got a harmless fly ball to Gonas in right for the final out.
Reynolds’s pitching into the seventh was huge. McCallie had four hits in the first two innings, plating a run in each.
Then, the Eagles’ defense fell apart in the third, as two errors, an infield single and a soft flare into right plated three runs.
But Reynolds was money, otherwise.
He struck out the side with two on in the second, worked out of a two-on jam in the fourth, then, worked a quick fifth and sixth, facing just seven men combined in those frames.
“I started using the change-up,” Reynolds said. “My curveball wasn’t working, so I started using the slider a lot more.”
“He knows he’s not going to throw the ball by everybody,” Alexander said. “He knows how to use all three pitches well and hit spots and locations. He knows how to pitch. He’s not just a thrower.”
With BA trailing 1-0, Woodlee doubled to left to lead off the second. McCallie lefty John Behrends nicked center fielder Garrett Smith with a pitch, then, Gonas bunted. Behrends fielded it, but McCallie couldn’t get a fielder to first in time, and when catcher James Rosen grounded to second, Woodlee came across to tie.
Easton then doubled to deep right-center, scoring two. Hodge then doubled down the line to left for another run.
In the third, a pair of errors led to three runs for McCallie, which led 5-4 then, but a Reynolds sacrifice fly to left and a Woodlee single to left put the Eagles back on top in the fourth.
McCallie is coached by Tim Costo, who was the eighth overall pick in the 1990 Major League Baseball Draft, and played for the Cincinnati Reds from 1992-93.