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Cooper, ‘Hammer’ pitching efforts thwart Bearden rally for 3-2 win

Jordan Cooper pitched the Farragut Admirals to a Class AAA State Tournament semifinal victory against Collierville as a freshman in 2006.

Despite such big-game experience, a showdown on enemy turf against your archrival is hardly a piece of cake. Even in the regular season.

Cooper said he was “nervous the whole game” against the unbeaten Bearden Bulldogs, Friday, March 14, in a showdown at BHS’s Phil Garner Field.

But the junior allowed just one earned run, four hits and two walks in 5 1/3 innings of work and picked up a 3-2 win.

Clutch hitting at the bottom of the FHS batting order and some “fireman” relief work by Admirals ace pitcher Matt “Hammer” Ramsey — escaping a sixth-inning jam when Bearden rallied — were other huge factors.

Ramsey, a University of Tennessee signee battling “bicep tendonitis” according to FHS head coach Tommy Pharr, also came through offensively with a hit and two RBIs.

As for Cooper, “He was able to locate his fastball, which was good,” Pharr said. “A couple of times he got in a little bit of trouble, either by walking somebody or they got a hit. But he was able to work his way out of it.

“I thought that was a big plus for him,” Pharr added. “In the past, sometimes when he’s gotten into trouble he’s not been able to get out of it.”

Two hits from junior outfielder Blake Hayes, the No. 9 hitter in the FHS line-up, didn’t go unnoticed.

“That’s probably the biggest game Blake’s played in,” Pharr said. “For him to come out and get a couple of big hits — he hit the ball hard another time … that’s probably the difference.

“A couple of big hits like that was huge.”

Farragut entered the week with a 3-0 record (2-0 in District 4-AAA), while BHS fell to 3-1, 2-1.

Hayes led-off the Admiral third inning with a single to right field, then scored on Curt Powell’s triple down the right field line. Powell, who ended with two hits, scored on a sacrifice fly from Ramsey, making it 2-0.

Hayes led-off the fifth inning with a sharp single to center field, advanced to second on a pass ball and scored on Ramsey’s bloop single to right field making it 3-0.

Losing pitcher Taylor Gouffon allowed three earned runs, seven hits and two hit-batters in 6 1/3 innings. The BHS senior, an East Tennessee State signee, struck out five while allowing no walks.

“Taylor pitched his end off,” BHS head coach Matt Buckner said. “He punched the strike zone.”

Though down 3-0, the Bulldogs were hardly done. “Our guys battled hard, we didn’t fold the tent when it was 3-0,” Buckner said.

Matthew Scruggs connected for a one-out double and Ryan Ford walked to end Cooper’s evening. Reliever Shane Glarrow walked Sean Greenway on four pitches.

Ramsey relieved Glarrow. Bulldog left fielder Dawson Halliday’s infield grounder plated Scruggs — and was booted to keep the bases loaded.

After Ramsey recorded a three-pitch strikeout using mostly a fastball Pharr estimated to be “in the high eighties,” the hard-throwing senior’s next strikeout didn’t get the Admirals out of the inning.

A pass ball on the third strike fastball — caused by a signal cross-up between Ramsey and FHS catcher Michael Williams according to Pharr — allowed Ford to score and strikeout victim Bryant Walker to reach base, cutting the lead to 3-2.

“The catcher called for a breaking ball,” Pharr said.

But Ramsey struck-out Gouffon to end the threat.

The staff ace wasn’t touched in the seventh, setting down the Bulldogs in order with three strikeouts.

About Ramsey, Bucker said: “he is as advertised.”

Bulldog reliever and staff ace Andy Fennell came on with one out and one on base in the seventh and allowed two walks — one intentional. But Fennell got out of a bases-loaded jam unscathed.

“You had four outstanding pitchers going tonight,” Buckner said.

Matt Sayers and Mac Thoreson each added one hit for Farragut.

Other Bearden hits came from Walker, who smacked a double, Halliday and Gouffon.

Pharr praised the Bulldogs. “They’re one of the best teams around — just to be able to beat ’em was big,” he said.

Defensive gems included Halliday’s diving catch in left field that prevented at least one FHS run from scoring in the fifth inning. “Halliday made a great catch in left field,” Pharr said.

Bucker labeled the contest “a really good high school baseball game.

“I’m not disappointed, we performed well,” he added.


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