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Xander Taylor did what he loves to do Monday night.

Taylor, Farragut High School's junior relief pitcher, took the mound in the seventh inning with one out and the bases loaded and retired the final two hitters to nail down the Admirals' 7-3 District 4-AAA victory over rival Bearden at FHS's John Heatherly Field.

“I love closing baseball games, especially against Bearden,” Taylor said after retiring Ronnie Broyles and striking out Cody Norwood to preserve Farragut's second win over the Bulldogs in 2011.

Taylor, also a starter in the FHS rotation, took over for starter Derek Chandler, who went 6 1/3 innings. Chandler struggled early, but got stronger throughout the contest.

He surrendered three runs (all in the third inning). He gave up eight hits and two walks. He hit three Bearden hitters and struck out five.

“He wasn't real sharp early,” Farragut head coach Matt Buckner said of his senior pitcher. “This was a tough game and we found a way to win it and that's better than finding ways to lose.”

Although Taylor's big impact came on the mound, he also had a big day at the plate.

He opened the contest at first base and went 1-for-2 with a pair of walks. He had two RBIs and drove in the eventual winning run with a single that scored Cameron Strickland with Farragut's fourth run in the bottom of the fifth.

“At the plate, I just tried to stay within myself,” Taylor said.

Farragut (16-3 overall, 7-1 in 4-AAA) took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. A.J. Simcox tripled with one out. He scored on Nicky Delmonico's groundout to third.

The Bulldogs (11-8, 5-3) took the lead in the top of the third.

Tyler Hill, Bearden's ninth hitter and first baseman, started the inning with a leadoff single. He moved to second when Chris Hamilton walked.

Chandler then retired Dakota Stallings and Derek Lance before Trey York doubled home Hill to tie the game.

The Bulldogs then took a 3-1 lead on a two-run single by catcher Drew Pasillas, who was gunned down attempting to advance to second.

The Admirals plated a run in the bottom of the inning on an RBI groundout by Taylor. Simcox, who doubled earlier in the frame, scored on the play to make the score 3-2.

“I just came out here and tried to give my team a chance to win and I took it one step at a time,” said Simcox, who went 3-for-4 with a triple, two doubles, two runs and an RBI. “We were a little flat early but we were able to get some energy.”

Buckner, Farragut's second-year head coach, said his team was tight at the plate in the contest's early stages.

“I felt like we were really tight early on,” he said. But he [Simcox] has been swinging it good lately.”

The Admirals took the lead for good with three runs in the bottom of the fifth.

In that inning, Taylor and sophomore Nick Senzel had RBI singles and designated hitter Anthony El Chibani scored on a wild pitch after drawing a leadoff walk.

Farragut added two more insurance runs in the sixth as Strickland had an RBI triple and Simcox drove in the game's final run with a double.

The Bulldogs mounted one final threat in the seventh.

Chandler retired Stallings to open the inning. Lance then singled and advanced to third on York's second double of the game. Pasillas then drew a walk off the Admirals' starter to load the bases before Taylor came in to retire the final two hitters.

Even in defeat, Bearden head coach Jack Tate remained upbeat.

“This is a great group of kids,” said Tate, who replaced Buckner as the Bulldogs' head coach in 2010. “This is my favorite team in 30 years as a head coach or assistant at Bearden. They battle until the last out and you saw that tonight.

“We know that we can compete with Farragut,” Tate added. “We're trying to get ourselves into seeding position in the district tournament.”

Both teams open play this weekend in Kesslers Classic play among an East Tennessee field including all six Westside teams.


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