GRAY — One more time.
The District 1-AAA baseball tournament’s championship trophy presentation was put on hold Wednesday night by David Crockett (23-12).
The Pioneers, who had not defeated Science Hill in five years, sprang an 8-4 upset to force an absolute final game in the double-elimination event.
“We finally got that big gorilla off our back,’’ Crockett coach Scott Hagy said.
Sparked by an early eight-run explosion and the crafty pitching of veteran left-hander Clint Freeman, Crockett had the impetus it needed to hand the Hilltoppers (26-13) their first tournament loss.
Freeman exited with a seven-run lead after Hagy began to conserve his pitching staff’s energy for next week’s Region 1 playoffs.
“Clint wanted to go a little bit longer,’’ Hagy said, “but he’d had enough. He was done. Clint has been pitching lights out these last two or three weeks.’’
Science Hill rallied against reliever Ty Shipley, whose off-speed servings contrasted with Freeman’s bullets, and closed the gap. But it was too late for the Hilltoppers, who played out of character by committing five errors and were without a hit until Zach Thompson’s double leading off the fourth inning.
Catcher Drue Deloach went 3-for-3 to lead Crockett’s 10-hit attack on four pitchers, driving in three runs.
“Clint carried us early and through the middle of the season,’’ Hagy said. “Drue has been carrying us in this stretch. That’s what seniors do.’’
Joe Ganger, a sophomore, had four RBIs with a single, two-run groundout and sacrifice fly.
Crockett’s three-run outburst in the opening inning contributed to Freeman’s cause. “You’ve got to do that to teams like Science Hill because they’re going to wake up eventually and start hitting,’’ Hagy said.
With Freeman and Chris Marti being held back for the region, it leaves Hagy with a problem finding a pitcher who can make it two in a row against the Hilltoppers.
“That’ll be a gametime decision,’’ he said. “It’ll probably be a staff day tomorrow.’’
The Pioneers are likely to go with soft-throwing left-hander Jacob Adkins.
Science Hill coach Ryan Edwards said his pitching choice would be open for discussion. He has a number to choose from.
“They’ve got more arms than they have uniforms,’’ Hagy said of the Hilltoppers.
Crockett last beat Science Hill in 2005 by sweeping the Hilltoppers in the regular season. Hagy, by winning tonight, would have his team at home for Monday’s region opener.
“I don’t know how long it’s been since we hosted a region game,’’ he said. “It might have been as far back as 1994. It would be big for our school to have the game up here.’’
Freeman wasn’t as dominating as the 20-strikeout performance he had in an earlier district game, but he was effective.
“I didn’t have the extra two or three miles per hour I usually do,’’ he said, “but my curve was working. Anytime you can beat Science Hill, it’s big. Their lineup — one through nine — is so tough.’’
“We need to keep looking forward and not take anybody lightly. We lost a lot of games last year that we should have won but we’re a more mature team now. We had to get that roller-coaster going in a straight line.’’
Edwards gave the Pioneers plenty of credit. “Those guys hit the baseball well,’’ he said. “Crockett has a quality ballclub. Freeman, coming off three days’ rest, shut us down for nearly five innings.’’
Crockett and Science Hill will be facing Sevier County and Jefferson County in the region.