STORY BY CHIP CIRILLO | PHOTOS BY CARL EDMONDSON, JR.
In the words of Chayton Gray, the Independence Eagles are “hitting their stride at the right time.”
Are they ever.
The fourth-seeded Eagles (19-11) beat second-seeded Brentwood on Tuesday night, one day after beating No. 1 Summit in eight innings in the District 11-AAA Tournament.
Gray did his part, holding Brentwood to two runs and four hits in 5-2/3 innings of a 5-3 win at Summit.
The 6-foot-2 lefthander struck out nine for the win.
“I think we had a lot of close ballgames this year that could have gone either way and I think right now balls are just falling our way, and we’re getting the job done when we have to,” said Gray, a Rhodes signee.
Independence will play the Brentwood-Ravenwood winner in the championship at 7:00 p.m. Wednesday.
Vanderbilt commit Robert Hassell, the district MVP, went 2 for 3 with a two-run homer and a double. It was the junior’s 12th homer of the year.
He almost had another extra-base hit, but Brentwood center fielder Michael Finch robbed him with a running catch against the wall.
“I feel like we’re peaking at the perfect time,” Hassell said. “We’re on a roll, so we’ll see what we can do.”
Brentwood (18-15) faces archrival Ravenwood in an elimination game at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The Eagles built a 4-1 lead after three innings and held on.
“(Chayton) was able to throw his changeup and get it down for strikes,” Eagles coach Mike McLaury said. “The first time we played them he wasn’t able to do that and that was the biggest thing. Robert is one of the best and he put some good swings on the ball.”
Independence avenged a 16-1 loss to Brentwood in April. The teams split two games during the regular season.
Brentwood, the defending state runner-up, scored twice in the last two innings, but couldn’t catch Independence.
“We applied a little pressure at the end and gave ourselves a chance,” Bruins coach Bill Moore said. “I can’t wait for (Robert Hassell) to graduate. He’s right up there with some of the best that have come through as far as just a challenge to get him out. He doesn’t have a real weakness at the plate.”