By Jesse Smithey
A week ago, the Pigeon Forge High School baseball team didn’t appear to belong on the same field as Gibbs during a District 3-AA Championship.
But Wednesday night, exactly seven days later, Pigeon Forge hoisted a region title in Corryton.
Bryant Franklin fired a complete game, and the Tigers rolled past host Gibbs 5-1 to win the Region 2-AA Championship.
“He threw a great game,” Pigeon Forge coach Mike Guinn said about Franklin. “I think just 82 pitches.”
Pigeon Forge (24-9-1) has now won 17 of 19 games and will host Greeneville (24-11-1), a 9-4 loser to Elizabethton Wednesday, in a Class AA state sectional. All state sectional winners advance to next week’s state tournament in Murfreesboro.
Gibbs (27-11) will travel to face Region 1-AA champion Elizabethton (25-8).
Pigeon Forge scattered hits throughout the night, according to Guinn. Still, the Tigers first baseman Hunter Monday provided a huge RBI-double off the wall in the fifth to provide an insurance run and 5-1 lead.
But the battery of Franklin and catcher Matt Rollar proved to be the decisive factor.
“I knew we could play solid (against Gibbs),” said Guinn. “But the difference was today: they (Gibbs) hit a ton of hard balls, but they hit them right at us. We were really lucky in that regard. They have a great-hitting team.
“They’re still the toughest team to handle.”
Motivated to return to the state tournament where it went 0-2 a season ago, Greenback (28-8) won a Region 1-A title with a 3-1 victory Wednesday over University School. The Cherokees need a win Friday in the state sectionals to return to the Spring Fling, and they’ll face Region 2-A runner-up Chattanooga School of Arts & Sciences – a 6-5 loser to Lookout Valley on Wednesday.
Science Hill 7, Seymour 0: Science Hill pitcher Garrett Wilkins blanked the Eagles (22-13) and struck out 12. The Hilltoppers (34-7) will welcome Region 2-AAA runner-up Karns in the state sectional round. Seymour will travel to play Region 2-AAA champion Farragut, a 5-2 winner over Karns on Wednesday.
CAK at Harding Academy – This Best-of-3 Series begins Thursday. CAK (28-11) won a Class AA state title last season. Harding Academy (20-14) was a state-tournament participant a season ago.
USJ wins series over Grace – The Bruins of University School of Jackson swept Grace on Wednesday in the first two games of the Best-of-3 Series, eliminating the Rams from postseason contention. USJ won the first game by a 8-6 mark and then punctuated the day with a 10-0 win in Game 2. Grace finished the season 27-13.
Tipton-Rosemark at Webb – The finale of this Best-of-3 series will take place at 1:30 p.m. Eastern on Thursday, as the two clubs split the first two games on Wednesday. Webb won the first game 7-1, but Tipton-Rosemark bounced back in the nightcap with a 13-3 victory.