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A costumed ice cream cone threw out the first pitch to kick off a huge rivalry showdown, but halfway through the game it became “Ethan Bennett Home Run Derby Night.”

By game's end, this exciting high school baseball slugfest could easily have been labeled “Bearden Almost Pulls an Upset Night” or “Nick Williams Closes Strong Evening.”

The BHS Bulldogs brought a losing record to the “Field of State Champions,” Farragut's John Heatherly Field, but played toe-to-toe with the highly regarded Admirals before losing a game it could have won, falling 7-4, Monday evening, April 19.

“I think more and more people are starting to step up,” said Bennett, FHS catcher and UT signee who homered twice, giving the senior 15 on the season.

“My goodness,” BHS head coach Matt Buckner reacted about Bennett's recent sizzle.

Bennett added, “I don't want to jinx myself, but it's been going really well. Pretty good things have been happening.”

Bearden could have been one accurate throw to home plate from victory, taking a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the sixth with resourceful hitting and solid pitching from starter Cory Phillips.

That bad throw to home plate, where the Bulldogs had FHS baserunner Stewart Martens dead to rights before a low throw got away, tied the game 4-4 with two outs in the sixth.

Enter Williams, Farragut's No. 2 starter who earned a complete game pitching victory. He stroked a two-out, two-RBI single to centerfield making it 6-4.

“Nick Williams comes up with a huge hit,” Buckner said, adding this other UT signee “wasn't at his best today [as pitcher] but he was good. ... I thought it was a big-time effort. I don't think his arm was feeling the best it had felt all year.”

Williams graded himself a “B-, C+” performance on the mound, allowing just five hits with eight strikeouts and three walks. “Luckily I got through it,” he said. “Early in the game I wasn't throwing my breaking ball good.”

FHS added another run in the sixth on another throwing error.

Bearden head coach Jack Tate said, “I thought we had a chance there in the sixth inning. A couple plays went the wrong way, and you have to give Farragut credit for capitalizing on those.

“I'm proud of our guys for the way we fought,” he added. “I think we showed we're one of the best teams around.”

About losing pitcher Phillips, Tate said, “Cory's had four outstanding starts in a row. ... He's going to be a big part of our success the rest of the way.”

Williams walked two in the top of the seventh but struck out two others and induced a pop up into foul ground to end the game.

Bearden (9-15 overall, 4-5 in District 4-AAA) jumped on Williams in the first inning, using a Ty Greene single and Drew Pasillas walk before Garrett Sale's RBI single, plus an outfield error, scored two.

Farragut answered in the bottom of the first with a David Allen bunt single followed by Bennett's first home run, a towering no-doubt shot to left field, tying the game 2-2.

Down 3-2 entering the fifth, Bearden tied the game thanks to Derek Lance's triple off the left centerfielder wall, scoring Sale, who walked. Consecutive Williams strikeouts kept Lance at third.

The Bulldogs went ahead in the sixth thanks to singles from Pasillas and Sale to begin the inning. Williams rallied to retire the next three batters, but two wild pitches scored BHS pinch-runner Rob Thress, making it 4-3.

Stewart Martens and Allen drew one-out walks from Phillips in the bottom of the sixth before a strikeout produced the second out.

Facing BHS reliever Daniel Hullett, Nicky Delmonico, FHS junior shortstop and Georgia commitment, hit a slow grounder to shortstop where Trey York's throw to first was late.

But Martens didn't stop running from second base, and would have been easily tagged out except the throw home was low and got away form Pasillas. Game tied 4-4.

“I thought the ball was going by and I sent the baserunner,” Buckner said. “We were fortunate.”

The Ads bounced back from a tough but dramatic 15-11, nine-inning loss to powerful Mt. Juliet (21-2 after the win) Saturday in the Kessler’s Classic semis at FHS.

Bennett's two-run homer in the seventh and Delmonico's three-run homer in the eight each rallied FHS for a tie when hope looked lost. But Mt Juliet slammed five home runs in the final three innings off losing pitcher and reliever Delmonico.

Tyler Noland's three-run homer highlighted a five-run FHS third inning before the visitors rallied.

(See related BHS story, page 4B)


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