By SAM McGAW | Photos by KINDELL MOORE
MURFREESBORO — Any doubt that cast over Brentwood’s baseball team following the District 11-AAA and Region 6-AAA tournaments is long gone.
The Bruins, who went 1-3 during that stretch, clinched their first Class AAA state championship berth Thursday with a 5-3 win in their second game against Dobyns-Bennett at Siegel High School.
They will battle Stewarts Creek for the title at 5 p.m. Friday at Middle Tennessee State’s Reese Field.
“I feel beyond grateful we have this opportunity,” Brentwood head coach Bill Moore said. “I’m so thankful to be with these kinds of guys. I feel extremely lucky and fortunate.”
Dobyns-Bennett (30-13) edged Brentwood 6-4 in Game 1 of the finals earlier in the day with the help of a go-ahead three-run home run by Evan McHaffey with two outs in the bottom of the sixth.
“I felt like we were kind of changing who we are a little bit today, and we can’t do that,” Moore said. “We can’t be something we’re not. We have to be what got us here. We didn’t execute in some situations that we normally do. We don’t want to change now.”
The Bruins (29-11) wasted no time bouncing back in Game 2, however, as they exploded for a 4-1 lead in the bottom of the first inning behind Kaden Dreier’s two-run triple and a two-run home run by Luke Reidy in the ensuing at-bat.
“We got a couple of timely hits,” said Reidy, who finished 2-for-3 at the plate. “I was just looking for a pitch to get a sac-fly in, but it was up in the zone and I just got a good barrel on it and it went out.”
Reidy also earned the win on the mound. The senior struck out five batters and allowed five hits, two walks and two earned runs in five innings.
“Pitching with the lead is easy, especially when you have the guys we have behind me,” Reidy said. “It was just a great game to be a part of.”
Connor Smith threw a strikeout and allowed one hit in the final two innings to earn the save.
The Indians scored on an error to cut the lead to 4-2 in the second inning.
Brentwood responded in the bottom of the frame with a run by Carson Shacklett on an error.
The Indians switched to pitcher Jeremiah Ball for the ensuing at-bat. He recorded four strikeouts and held the Bruins to just two hits over the next 4.2 innings.
Ivan Phillips added the final run for Dobyns-Bennett with a double in the fifth inning.
The Indians had the potential go-ahead run at the plate with one out in the top of the sixth, but Brentwood shortstop Tyler Shelton turned a ground ball into a double play to exit the inning unscathed.
“Somebody has to pick you up every game, and we’ve taken turns,” Moore stated. “Today, Tyler Shelton picked us up there late in the game, making some great plays defensively. We made our fair share of mistakes defensively, and he picked us up. Huge day for him.”
Brentwood’s players aren’t the only members of the team earning their first state tournament berth.
Moore, who’s in his fourth season with Brentwood, hasn’t been to the state championship in his 11 years of coaching.
“It’s hard to put words on it when you invest so much in the kids and the time you put to it year after year,” he said. “I feel lucky. There’s so many great coaches in our area and across the state that do the same thing I do. They don’t do anything different than what I do, and yet we’re there.”
Stewarts Creek defeated Jefferson County 5-3 and 11-1 to advance.
Brentwood has won four of its last five games.