KNOXVILLE — Tuesday night was a long one for the Maryville baseball team at Farragut High School.
After the No. 3-seeded Rebels defeated No. 7 Heritage, 10-5, in a District 4-AAA Tournament elimination game that lasted two-and-a-half hours, they were tasked with taking on top-seeded Farragut on the perennial powerhouse’s home turf.
Maryville ran out of gas against the Admirals, and the Rebels’ season came to an end in an 11-1 loss to finish third in the district. Farragut will host No. 2 Hardin Valley in the championship Wednesday.
“It was a fun day — we knew this was going to be an uphill battle,” Maryville coach Adam Sullivan said. “I really wish things would have turned out a little differently in that second game but, being in that situation, to give yourselves a chance to play to go to the region is a monumental thing for this group of guys.”
Maryville (25-11-1) recorded a combined 15 hits in two games. Riley Orr and Daniel Hughes each finished the night with three hits, including a home run apiece.
In the second game of the night, Farragut took control early with six runs in the bottom of the second before stretching that lead to seven the next inning. Isaiah French got something started for the Rebels with a double in the top of the fourth, and Hughes drove him home with an RBI single — Maryville’s first two hits of the game.
But Farragut answered with four runs in the bottom of the fifth to activate the run rule the following inning.
“That (big second inning) really just kind of took the air out of us,” Sullivan said. “But we still went up there and battled. … This group of guys is special. They really enjoy playing together and being around each other, and that usually leads to a lot of success.”
Heritage coach Robbie Bennett was also pleased with the effort of his Mountaineers (19-13) in the first game. They matched Maryville’s 12 hits, but they just weren’t quite as timely as the Rebels’.
Luke Johnson, Riley Tipton, Jaden Jones, Dylan Varitek and Kaden Adsit all recorded two hits apiece for Heritage.
“From start to finish, it’s one of the most improved teams I’ve coached in 20 years,” Bennett said. “The first week of the season, I was a little worried, but they came out and worked hard every day, and we got better and made a good run in this tournament.”
Heritage got off to a strong start at the plate against Maryville with three hits in the first inning. Spencer Williams, Johnson and Tipton strung together three singles, but the Rebels didn’t allow them to capitalize on that early production.
Maryville recorded a pair of hits of its own in the bottom of the first, which Josh Seiler led off with a single. Orr drove Seiler home with an RBI double to left field to put Maryville on the board. The Mountaineers didn’t allow the setback to faze them in the top of the second as they rallied for a pair of two-out hits starting with a Varitek single, and Adsit tied the game at 1 with an RBI double.
“Early, we could have laid down but they fought and we had a lot of kids get better,” Bennett said. “We had two of our top arms going today. (Maryville) came out, and they swung the bats good — there wasn’t much we could do. We just had to hit it, too.”
The flood gates opened for Maryville in the bottom of the second in which the Rebels scored five runs on six hits. Landon Dockery and Hughes led off with singles before DJ Burks put Maryville ahead 2-1 with an RBI single. After a single by McMurray, Seiler grounded into a fielder’s choice to score one, and Orr followed a Justin Millsaps walk with a two-run single. French rounded out the scoring for that inning with an RBI single that stretched Maryville’s lead to 6-1, and the Rebels never trailed again.
“I knew that (Heritage) had been hitting well, so I told our guys we’ve just got to keep pressing,” Sullivan said. “This is a long game. To their credit, we just kept having great at-bats.”
Heritage, again, didn’t fold in the top of the third. The Mountaineers loaded the bases with no outs before Zach Hollman grounded out to drive home their first run of the inning. Varitek and Adsit cut Maryville’s advantage to 6-4 with back-to-back two-out RBI singles.
The Rebels cushioned their lead to three when Hughes scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the third before he made it 8-4 in the fifth inning with a solo home run to left field. Maryville added two runs in the bottom of the sixth after Millsaps advanced home on a pair of Heritage errors and Orr blasted a solo homer to put the Rebels ahead 10-4.
“I’m really proud of (Hughes), and Riley Orr has been a great leader,” Sullivan said with tears in his eyes. “I couldn’t have asked for a better leader than Riley Orr.”
The Mountaineers gave Maryville one last scare when they led off the top of the seventh with four straight hits — the third of which was an RBI single by Zander Melton to cut the deficit to five. Jones loaded the bases with no outs with a single, but a double play on Heritage’s next at-bat squashed that momentum and virtually ended its comeback bid.
“They kept at it — they gave us a chance, even at the end,” Bennett said. “It’s been a great run.”