|Bears fall 2-1 in AAA finals|
|Friday, May 22, 2009|
FARRAGUT REPEATS AS STATE CHAMPS
MURFREESBORO -- Having an ace up you sleeve in a poker game just might get you killed.
However, Mt. Juliet High coach Mark Purvis used an extra ace to almost pull off one of the most storied upsets in Tennessee prep history last week in the Class AAA finals of the BlueCross Spring Fling at MTSU’s Reese Smith Field.
Staring down nationally-ranked Knoxville Farragut in Friday’s winner-take-all finals with his top two pitchers Taylor Haydel (11-0) and Jake Harper (9-1) pretty much spent, Purvis handed the ball to junior shortstop Ethan Gross who turned in a masterful performance against the mighty Admirals.
Gross, in just his third pitching appearance of the season, certainly pitched well enough to win, but came out on the short end of a 2-1 decision.
"I thought with his guts and heart, he’d give us our best chance," Coach Purvis said. "I didn’t expect him to go seven innings.
"I thought I could use Haydel in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, but Ethan settled in."
The win marked Farragut’s second consecutive state title and fifth over the past seven seasons — putting wrap on a superb 39-5 year.
Mt. Juliet, the District 9AAA and Region 5AAA champions, sacked up the bats with a 31-13 worksheet.
Showing no ill effects from an early season shoulder injury, Gross befuddled the Admirals all afternoon, scattering six hits while inducing seemingly dozens of grounders by mixing up running two and four-seam fastballs.
Gross (0-2) didn’t walk a batter over his seven inning stint. He helped his own cause with a solo homer to lead off the second innings, cutting Farragut’s lead in half at 2-1.
Neither team mustered much the rest of the way in offense as Gross and Farragut’s sophomore ace Philip Pfeifer chewed up the hitters.
Besides the Gross homer, Mt. Juliet managed just four other hits, singles by Matt Owens, Haydel, Justin Lopez and Ryan Bretell.
All told, the game was over a mere 70 minutes after its 5 p.m. start.
Mt. Juliet rebounded from an 0-2 showing in last year’s tournament to push Farragut for seven innings.
"We just wanted a chance," Coach Purvis said. "And we got that chance. I told them to walk out with their heads held high," Purvis added. "It was an incredible run. I don’t know that we’ll ever get back here. It’s hard to do. I think we’re building a program that can contend every year."