MURFREESBORO — Two district rivals. Two old foes. The storyline doesn’t get much spicier for Friday’s Class AA state baseball championship.
Pigeon Forge and Gibbs, which have played four times already this season, will battle once more with the season’s most prized possession on the line.
Game time is set for 1 p.m. Friday at Siegel High School in Murfreesboro.
Gibbs has one state title to its credit (2010). As does Pigeon Forge (2013).
But let’s look at how they advanced from Thursday into Friday’s championship matchup.
GIBBS ROUTS GREENBRIER, 11-0
By Mike Blackerby
MURFREESBORO — With his pitching staff depleted, Gibbs baseball coach Geff Davis needed a fresh arm to get to Friday’s state Class AA championship game.
He was quick to enlist the help of Carson Raby on Thursday against Greenbrier, and the Eagles’ every-day catcher came through like a champ in the 11-0 run-ruled romp that was called after six innings.
Raby went the distance, giving up four hits, striking out five and walking none as Gibbs (31-7) moved into Friday’s 1 p.m. championship game at Siegel High School against familiar rival Pigeon Forge (32-5).
The two teams have met four times this season, with each winning twice.
“It’ll be a great game,” said Raby, who needed just 81 pitches to eliminate Greenbrier (22-9).
“Carson hadn’t pitched all year and he threw the game of his life,” said Davis, who guided the Eagles to the 2010 state title.
“I talked to Raby last night (Wednesday) about pitching and he said ‘all right.’ He was very excited about it.This is the time of the year when sometimes you have to do a few things that aren’t normal.”
Raby, who will pitch and catch in college at UVA-Wise, pitched for Gibbs as a sophomore before exclusively playing catcher the last two seasons.
“I’ve been begging coach all year to let me pitch and he finally gave me a shot,” said Raby.
“It was very exciting. When your buddies can go out there and put 10 or 11 runs up it’s easy to go out there and pitch.”
Gibbs got off to an electric start at the plate.
The Eagles rocked Greenbrier starter Matthew Hollina for five runs before recording an out.
Gibbs led 8-0 after the first inning.
“They knew we had to come out strong and take care of business,” said Davis.
The top four batters in the Gibbs lineup combined to go 7 for 11.
Brayden Taylor was 1 for 2 with three runs scored and two walks.
Mason Bell went 2 for 3 with a pair of doubles.
Braden Graves and Raby each went 2 for 3. Raby had a pair of RBIs.
Bryson Shown also had two hits in three at bats with two RBIs for the Eagles.
“Our hitting has been kind of contagious the last two games,” said Davis.
PIGEON FORGE HOLDS ON TO ADVANCE
By Jesse Smithey
Having already won two games this week and lost none, Pigeon Forge entered Thursday play in its portion of the Class AA bracket in prime position, needing to be beaten twice to not reach Friday’s championship.
No worries, right?
Pigeon Forge got rocked, 18-5, by Nolensville in an early afternoon game, forcing the Tigers to have to play them again — right after getting routed.
The Tigers met the challenge head on, though, and won the decisive game with Nolensville, 3-2.
Pigeon Forge (32-5) plated two runs in the first inning, scoring off a Nolensville error and a fielder’s choice to take a 2-0 lead. The Tigers got another run in the third with Bryce Effler scoring while Nolensville tried to turn a double play.
Those were all the runs right-hander Riley Franklin needed to get the win.
He pitched all seven innings, whiffing 11 batters and allowing just one earned run.
Nolensville got two runs in the sixth and had two runners on with two outs, but Franklin struck out Cluck to end the threat.
Franklin started the seventh with another strikeout and then retired the side with ease to clinch the title-game berth.
He bore the weight of the season on his shoulders, and Franklin didn’t buckle.
“It was a lot of pressure, but I have the utmost confidence in my defense to make plays behind me if I throw strikes,” said Franklin.
“It feels amazing to make it to the big game. It’s what we have been working for the whole year, and I am just happy for the team for never giving up and battling no matter the circumstances.”