BY JESSE SMITHEY
MURFREESBORO — Matt Buckner, his tank of emotions on full, hugged each and every individual Farragut player he could find Friday night at MTSU’s Reese Smith Jr. Field following the Admirals’ 7-3 win in the Class AAA state championship game.
For some high school baseball programs, a five-year title drought is nothing.
At Farragut, five years is a lifetime.
That’s why Buckner, the Farragut head coach, was in his feels after the Admirals clinched their first championship since 2014 with a win over Bradley Central.
“The expectations are pretty high at Farragut,” Buckner said. “But you just never know if you’re going to win another one. There’s a lot of steps to do it, and you have to play good baseball for a long time.
“Man, these boys played so good this week.”
That, they did. The Admirals went 4-0 in Murfreesboro and outscored opponents 36-15.
Their title marked the 10th for the Farragut baseball program overall and fourth under Buckner, who won a title in his first season (2010) followed by championships in 2011 and 2014.
Farragut’s 10 titles are good enough for second all-time in TSSAA history behind Christian Brothers (13).
“We did what we’ve set out to do from Day 1 — what the boys set out to do from Pitch 1 and what we set out to do from the very beginning,” said Buckner. “I felt pretty good all year. We played great baseball all year. I’m excited for our seniors. We have 15 guys who’ve invested their whole lives in this game.”
But the star Friday for Farragut was a junior: right-handed pitcher Ryan Hagenow.
Since Hagenow threw only 74 pitches Tuesday, he was allowed under the pitch-count rules to make the start Friday. And the last four innings, he was unhittable. He struck out the side in the fourth, retired the side in the fifth and sixth and then struck out the side again in the seventh.
The 6-foot-5 Kentucky commitment pitched a complete-game with 11 strikeouts and four hits allowed.
“We changed up our pitch-calling a little bit,” said Hagenow. “They were guessing what I was going to throw (in the early innings) and they were getting it right.
“So we changed that up, and I just tried to throw strikes.”
Farragut gave Hagenow two quick runs of support in the first inning. Ashton King (2-for-3) and Parker Noland (2-for-2) led off with a single and walk, respectively, and the Admirals scored on a fielder’s choice and passed ball.
Getting to Bradley Central freshman left-hander Cooper Casteel was imperative but Farragut’s lead proved only temporary when the Bears loaded the bases in the top of the second and scored two on a throwing error.
Another throwing error by Farragut to start the third inning triggered another unearned run.
Bradley Central returned the favor, though, plating Farragut’s King on a shortstop error in the bottom of the third to make it 3-3. McCarthy’s bases-loaded sac fly scored Hudson Seiglar also in the bottom of the third for a 4-3 lead.
Bradley Central coach Travis Adams tried to swing the momentum by bringing in sub-sidearm pitcher Jake Prock, it worked for the fourth inning but not the fifth. Noland and Seigler led off the bottom of the fifth with singles, and McCarthy’s two-out, two-run single gave Farragut a comfortable 6-3 cushion.
The hit atoned for his throwing error in the second inning.
“Honestly, we saw a lot of those (sidearm pitchers) against Bartlett (this week),” said McCarthy. “I feel like that helped us a lot, preparing us for this game.”
Farragut hadn’t played in a state tournament since 2016, so most of the Admirals weren’t familiar with the state-tournament grind and atmosphere.
But winning it all this week just came down to trusting their DNA.
“Just being ourselves and playing like we have all year, that’s all we wanted to do all week,” said King. “We knew if we did that, we’d have a good chance to win it.”