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Diamond Dawgs break new ground, earn program’s first-ever state berth

For all the Phil Garners, Mike DiFelices and Brett Carrolls who have earned All-state honors at Bearden High School and gone on to play Major League Baseball, none ever led the Bulldogs to the state tournament. No one had.

Until 2009, when led by seven seniors, the Bulldogs made program history and earned a Class AAA state tournament berth last Friday, May 15, in sub-state action. Bearden beat perennial Upper East Tennessee powerhouse Johnson City Science Hill 11-3 at SHHS.

“It’s been a long time coming,” BHS head coach Matt Buckner said. “We’ve never been to the state tournament at Bearden, ever. It’s kinda amazing as many good baseball players as have been at Bearden.”

About his seniors, Buckner said, “They’re really special, they play the game the right way. They just compete real hard. They really want to win. Just proud of those guys for really getting after it.”

About the entire team, Buckner said they “kinda always had that chip on their shoulders where they wanted to be great.”

The Bulldogs opened state tournament action Tuesday, May 19 (after press deadline) against a Mt. Juliet team (28-11) that shut-out Bearden at BHS in April. “They pitch it well and play defense,” Buckner said of MJHS.

Also in Bearden’s four-team side of the eight-team tournament is Cleveland (26-10-1) and Bartlett (29-9), 2007 state champ that lost to Farragut in the 2006 and 2008 state title games. If Bearden won its first two games, the Bulldogs would play Thursday, May 21, at 5:30 p.m. CDT.

Class AAA’s state title game begins at 5 p.m. CDT Friday against the two four-team bracket champs at MTSU. Farragut headlines the other four-team bracket.


“We hit the ball extremely well, and Garrett Copeland, I mean, he competed like everything on the mound. He’s just a great competitor. Knows how to pitch.”

Copeland, a senior lefty and Lincoln Memorial University signee who improved his perfect pitching record to 8-0, allowed eight hits in seven innings.

Sean Greenway, BHS senior second baseman, led the Bulldogs with three hits.

Seniors Jacob “Taco” Edwards, Mark Lail and Ryan Ford each had two hits. “Edwards had a big two-out double,” Buckner said. Senior Ryan Potter added a key two-out double, while pinch-hitter Garrett Sale also contributed an important two-out double.


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