BY JESSE SMITHEY
MURFREESBORO — The Greenback baseball team lost and won the Class A state championship Friday in the same game.
An odd feat, for sure.
But it happened.
Nevertheless, the Cherokees — after getting new life in one of the most unusual of occurrences you’ll ever see in any baseball game — executed a squeeze play to perfection in the top of the ninth inning to break a 1-all tie and hold on for a 2-1 win over Trinity Christian Academy (TCA).
And for Greenback players like Bryce Hanley, Reese Plemons, Seth Riddle, Cole Riddle and others, they now have a baseball title to go with the football title they won in 2017.
“It feels great,” said Greenback coach Wes Caldwell. “These kids who have played both (football and baseball) are going to go down as the most successful in history.
“And that’s a pretty big deal, because it’s a pretty rich history of athletics at Greenback.”
The Cherokees (33-10), who didn’t even have a baseball program just five years ago, captured their first state baseball championship in school history — when it seemingly had lost it in the bottom of the seventh.
Here’s the skinny…
After stranding the go-ahead runner in the top of the seventh, Greenback allowed TCA (38-4) to load the bases in the bottom half of the inning.
Up walked TCA senior first baseman Garrett Bond with two outs with a chance to be the hero.
And he was the hero — until he wasn’t.
Bond rocketed a line drive off Greenback starter Plemons into the gap in right-center. Greenback centerfielder Seth Riddle gave tremendous chase, dove and just missed the ball.
“The feeling of defeat went straight through my body,” said Riddle. “I felt like we just lost everything.”
The Lions began to celebrate … and that was the problem.
Once Bond saw the ball drop and pass Riddle, he — a few steps shy of first base — turned inward to go and celebrate.
He never touched first base.
Greenback coach Wes Caldwell saw it, and immediately urged his players to relay the ball into the infield to first base. The Cherokees did, and Bond was ruled out.
The run did not count. The umpires confirmed the call, and the game went into extra innings.
“I was just walking out there. I don’t know why but I just happened to see it. It was like 6 feet (shy of first base),” said Caldwell. “I started scrambling and hollering but not get on the field where I’d screw up some rule about me not being on the field or something.
“For a minute, I thought I was going to have to throw it myself (to first base).
Greenback stranded two runners in the eighth. TCA also stranded a runner.
But in the ninth inning, Seth Riddle reached on an error and then moved into scoring position with a stolen base and sac bunt.
Greenback senior Michael Severance and Seth Riddle performed the squeeze play, and Riddle scored for the 2-1 lead.
Tyler Cullen relieved Greenback starter Reese Plemons in the eighth, after Plemons had reached the pitch-count max of 120. Plemons — who hit the walk-off homer Thursday to send the Cherokees to the final — worked 7 ⅔ innings, allowing just one earned run and five hits. He worked out of multiple jams and personally helped strand 10 TCA runners.
Cullen stranded the final Lion player.
With one runner on, he got pop outs to center field, then right field and left field to end the threat.
And oddly enough, Bond was on deck when the final out was made. He never got his shot at redemption.
“Now I have to get the (Greenback) G (logo) tattoo,” said Caldwell. “Me and the pitchers were running one day … they said, ‘Will you bleach all your hair if we win it.’ I said, ‘I’ll get a purple mohawk. I’ll get a tattoo.’ They said, ‘He’s got to get a tatt’.’
“I’m getting the G tatt’ now. … I’ll wear it with pride the rest of my life.”