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Admirals win state

MURFREESBORO — On top of having to depend on so many freshman and sophomores in key roles, and finishing fourth in the district regular season and winning no championships leading to state, the Farragut Admirals baseball team had to become kings of avoiding elimination.

Seven times the Ads faced elimination during post-season play, and seven times they found a way to survive and move on.

And somehow collect a TSSAA Class AAA state championship trophy, the program’s third in four years.

And, after skating on thin ice but not falling through thanks largely to the brilliance of senior southpaw pitcher Rob Catapano, Farragut (30-15-1 final record) finished its seven-game elimination stretch with three convincing victories ending with a 7-0 blanking of Bartlett (33-13) in the title game Friday, May 26, at Middle Tennessee State University’s Reese Smith Field.

Catapano, staff ace the past two seasons with tons of success in post season leading to 2006, allowed just one earned run in his last 44 innings of work — the last 21 innings came following short rest periods.

After blanking Ravenwood 2-0 in the state tourney opener May 23 at Oakland High School with only three days rest — allowing just two hits with nine strikeouts — the University of North Carolina signee comes back for the championship game May 26 on only two days rest.

And fires another two-hit shutout, with 11 strikeouts and no walks, needing only 75 pitches to do so.

“He’s been money the whole season,” FHS head coach Tommy Pharr said. “I worried that he might be a little tired the week of the region and pitching on Tuesday, and playing [center field] on Wednesday and Thursday. He was really good [Friday].”

As for comparisons with FHS All-state pitcher Craig Cobb and All-American pitcher and Minnesota Twins’ top draft choice Kyle Waldrop, “I think it’s right there with those guys,” Pharr said. “Cobb, Kyle and Rob all three were warriors. That’s as good a performance as we’ve had.”

About being able to come back on less than the normal four days rest in his sectional and two state tourney performances, “That was big, I mean, he’s got a live arm, and he uses his body really well,” Pharr said.

Catapano said, “I felt fine, it was hot outside,” adding, “It was the last game of the season.”

On pitching on short rest for such an extended time, “I’ve never done a stretch like that,” he said. “I was a little worried about it because I’ve never thrown on three days rest before, but it’s the last game of the year, and it’s the big game of the year. And, I mean, you’ve got all summer to rest up and everything. I try not to think about it a lot.”

Based on his experience of having started and won games in the state tourney as a sophomore and junior, “You kinda know what to expect and how to handle it,” Catapano said.

About having such pressure on his shoulders, “it’s fine with me.”

Senior left fielder Chip Eskew added, “We pretty much rode Rob’s are all year. As soon as we got a couple of runs I knew that the game was over, too. Rob got us here.”

Farragut’s 7-0 record in post-season games was pitcher-driven throughout and started with a 4-2 against South-Doyle in District 4-AAA in nine innings (Catapano goes the distance); 1-0 versus Halls in the Region 2-AAA semifinals (Catapano goes the distance), and 3-2 against Kingsport's Dobyns-Bennett in sectionals (Catapano goes the distance).

“I thought if we were fortunate to get out of district we might have a chance to go to state, just because Rob could pitch on Monday and Friday,” Pharr added. “But just getting out of the district was a chore in and of itself.”

At state, Farragut used a critical pick-off play at second base in the bottom of the seventh, plus timely hitting to win 3-2 to eliminate Ravenwood May 24 and survive. Sophomore Matt Ramsey goes six innings giving up seven hits and one walk with nine strikeouts, while Michael Joseph gets the save with two huge strikeouts, the latter with the winning RHS run on first base.

“Hammer [Ramsey] has played well for us offensively and defensively, and got a big win the other night.”

In a 5-0 win against unbeaten Collierville Thursday, May 25, freshman pitcher Jordan Cooper rose to the occasion by going 6.1 innings and allowing just two hits and two walks with nine strikeouts.

“Jordan Cooper pitched for us in an elimination game against Collierville and threw a two-hitter while he was in there, set them down. I mean, there were a lot of elements, and a lot of the elements were young guys. A good mix of young and old.”

Senior catcher/left fielder Ty Nelson, who stick was hot at state, praised the young players, starting with Cooper. “He came through in the first Collierville [win], the elimination game, he pitched real well for us,” Nelson said. “That’s the best game I ever saw him pitch.”

“Shane Glarrow [sophomore] came in to close the second Collierville game,” Nelson added. “I think all the freshmen were real focused.”

Eliminating Collierville 8-3 in the second game May 25, senior pitcher Lawson Cheek went six innings, allowed three earned runs and seven hits with only one walk and three strikeouts.

And the clincher against Bartlett.

“It is amazing,” Pharr said. “It’s a credit to our guys when their backs were against the wall, they still got after it.”

Offensively in the title game, Matt Ramsey’s double and David Reynolds’ RBI single put FHS ahead to stay in the second inning.

Barton Ivy’s solo homer in the top of the third made it 2-0. Fourth inning singles by Catapano and Reynolds led things off, and following freshman Joey Delmonico’s successful sacrifice bunt, Ivy’s sacrifice fly made it 3-0. Chip Eskew followed with an RBI single for a 4-0 Ad lead.

Nelson led off the seventh with his second single of the game, followed by a one-out Ramsey single. Reynolds followed with a two-RBI bloop double. Delmonico’s infield hit earned an RBI for a 7-0 lead.

Freshman shortstop Curt Powell added three singles.

Reynolds, senior first baseman, also had a pair of two-RBI doubles in the doubleheader sweep of Collierville and a key RBI single in the 3-2 win versus Ravenwood. “David had a great post season,” Pharr said. “That’s a good example of the kinda kid he is. He struggled some during the season, especially toward the end of the season. He’s been such a good kid, such a good leader for us. … I’m proud for him.

Eskew, a senior left fielder, played well for us all year,” Pharr added. “He played well for us all year.”

Eskew said, “No one expected us to be here, it’s pretty incredible, we were fourth in the district and first in the state. We just had players step up in big situations and get that one big hit, and make that one big defensive play. It kinda went like that in all those games.”

As for Ivy, a junior second baseman, “Barton got a big hit [Thursday versus Collierville] to the opposite field,” Pharr said. “He’s been real steady defensively. He’s been a good hitter in the two spot.

Ivy added a clutch RBI single in the Ravenwood elimination game.

As for his freshman left side of the infield, “Curtís [Powell] has kinda been the catalyst in the leadoff spot, and doing a good job getting on base in the post-season, playing good defense,” Pharr said about his shortstop. “Cade [Stallings, third base] been really good defensively, and swung the ball well for us.”

Curtis Powell had two hits, and had the only RBI hit, a single, in the 2-0 win against Ravenwood.

Stallings had a two-RBI double in the 5-0 CHS win, while Ramsey provided an RBI single.

Scoring all eight runs in the first two innings in the 8-3 Collierville game, Eskew and Ramsey had two-RBI single while Stallings and Reynolds added two-RBI doubles.

Nelson, the only Ad with two hits against Collierville in the 3-0 loss, went 3 of 4 in the 8-3 victory against CHS.

“Ty [Nelson] has been good for us the past two years,” Pharr added. “He’s hit well.”

Reynolds said, “If you’d told me three weeks ago we’d won the state title, I would have found it pretty unbelievable. We soaked it all in, and we peaked at the right time, I guess.

“We prepared all year to play our best at the end of May,” he added. “That’s what we’re all about.

“It’s kinda unbelievable, a pretty incredible feeling.”

Senior lefty Bryan Powell was a tough-luck loser to 3-0 to Collierville, 3-0, Wednesday, May 24, allowing just one earned run (a home run), while victimized by a misplayed fly-ball and a throwing error. “We had a chance to fold, right there,” Pharr said.

Junior Steven Guerrette and sophomores Zach Allen and Andrew Martland were among the valuable pinch-runners, and Allen also saw action as Catapano’s catcher.

As for other seniors, “Lawson did a great job,” Pharr said, adding that all of Farragut’s three state championships under him have featured players “who maybe didn’t have a great year or whatever who stepped up in the post-season. We had some of those guys this year.

Cheek said, “It’s amazing, I can’t even dream of anything better. And some of the critics, during the year, when they didn’t think we’d get through our district, and then we pulled through and won the state championship, I mean, it’s unbelievable.”


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