The McCallie baseball team overcomes Ace’s injury to make the Deep State run

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MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – McCallie’s baseball team was one of the biggest upsets at this week’s TSSAA Spring Fling.

The Blue Tornado’s chances of making a deep run in Division II-AA looked bleak when they injured star senior pitcher Austin Breedlove in their second game of the postseason, a 3-2 loss to Pope John Paul II. In a first round series two weeks ago. A deep staff hasn’t let his fallen ace down, however, as juniors Grayson Smith and Olin Johnson put on great performances to fuel a five-game winning streak that leads into the championship round of Friday’s state double-elimination tournament at Wilson Central High School .

McCallie only needs to win one game to be crowned champion, while his opponent needs to beat the Blue Tornado twice to secure the title. The other two teams remaining are Knoxville Catholic and Nashville’s Lipscomb Academy, who went into their losing bracket last Wednesday before being tied with a 3-2 lead by Catholic in the sixth inning with a runner at third base and two outs.

As inclement weather continued in the Murfreesboro area, the TSSAA postponed all of Thursday’s baseball and softball games so that the playoff game is now scheduled to begin Friday at 12 p.m. East, with the championship game to follow shortly thereafter.

“We really caught a nice wave at the end of the season where everything just came together,” said Blue Tornado season 6 head coach Tim Costo. “We have great team chemistry and our boys are playing great defense, our pitchers were dishing and our bats were catchy. This run was nice because we were the underdogs all year. Nobody expected us to be where we are. We just kept preaching to be patient with the process because we’re going to sneak up on some people.

Staff photo by Patrick MacCoon / Hudson Calhoun of McCallie has five hits in this week’s spring fling and will be looking to help the Blue Tornado win their third TSSAA baseball state championship on Friday.

McCallie (26-12-1) has the makeup of a state champion. The pitching staff has a 2.59 ERA with 319 strikeouts in 256 1/3 innings, strong defense has a .952 fielding percentage, and Blue Tornado’s runners have stolen 97 bases.

Though the Blue Tornado lost two games out of three each in the regular season to regional opponents Baylor and Knoxville Catholic, the Blue Tornado stormed thanks to Tuesday’s 3-2, six-inning win over Baylor and 8-2 win over Catholic on Tuesday Thursday undefeated in the championship round.

“Grayson Smith really helped us start off right by finishing Baylor’s lineup,” Costo said of the junior, who has 78 strikeouts and a 1.68 ERA. “He was a great leader for our pitching team that is filled with great guns.”

Johnson has three wins in McCallie’s streak, all of them complete games, while beating 27 batters combined.

Sophomore J. Michael Pierce has provided late heroics in each of McCallie’s two wins at Wilson Central this week with two RBIs in the sixth inning, and Hudson Calhoun has also swung a hot bat on the five-hit spring fling. Sebastian Leinberger’s go-ahead RBI single against Baylor was Tuesday’s difference, and Carter Hewitt’s three-RBI performance was all the firepower needed Wednesday against Catholic.

McCallie won his first TSSAA title in baseball state in 1976 and added a second in 2014.

“We want to bring another one back for Big Blue,” said Hewitt, who leads the team with a .387 batting average, 18 extra base hits and 30 RBIs. “We beat some really tough teams to get here. Everyone on our team deserves to win a state championship.”

At the DII-AA softball tournament, Baylor and GPS were scheduled to play Eastern Eastern in the Winners Bracket Final at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, but that game was moved to Friday with the same start time. Similarly, the Chattanooga Christian vs. Tipton-Rosemark game will be played in the 11:00 a.m. losers bracket, with the winner taking on the loser in an elimination match between Baylor and GPS.

Contact Patrick MacCoon at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.

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