In a large part thanks to his efforts, the Indians get to play there one more time.
The D-B right-hander threw a complete game one-hitter and the Indians beat Sevier County 1-0 in Wednesday’s Region 1-AAA championship game.
The Indians (31-6) will host Knox Catholic (28-11) in Friday’s 6 p.m. sectional game at Dobyns-Bennett’s atmospheric home field.
“We wanted to dog pile out here Friday instead of somewhere else,” said the grinning Reeves (8-1), who struck out seven and walked one.
A healthy crowd of spectators, including a delegation of Science Hill players whose season ended against the Smoky Bears on Monday, showed up for Wednesday’s game.
At the outset, Sevier County (32-9) seemed ill at ease with the noisy championship vibe, which was amplified by J. Fred’s concrete-lidded grandstand.
“You blink a few times and this thing was over with. It was short and sweet, to the point and not how we anticipated it going down,” said Sevier County coach Casey Taylor. “We kind of had an emotional letdown. The atmosphere up here is a little different for our guys. It’s a very unique and intriguing place to play.”
Reeves, in contrast, fed off his surroundings and the fans’ increasingly appreciative feedback.
“I love throwing here. After a couple of hard starts at Volunteer, I wanted to come out and set the tone early. It was the best game of my career so far, and I’m really happy with that,” said Reeves, who pitched five perfect innings.
The D-B senior gave up his lone hit in the third inning to East Tennessee State signee Dillon Cate, who played designated hitter in the lead-off spot. The ace pitcher (11-2 with two saves) and third baseman was saving his arm for Friday’s sectional game with Knox Farragut, a 10-2 winner over Catholic.
Sevier County right-hander Jeffrey Henry (4-2) gave a workmanlike performance, scattering six hits over six innings.
Having Cate play the field might’ve made a difference. The Smoky Bears’ lone error was committed in the first inning by sophomore third baseman Kody Paul, whose three-base throwing error put D-B’s Chris Cook on third.
Christian Bailey followed with a clutch single. Cook scored, but only after kicking the ball loose in a collision with plate-blocking catcher Devante Matthews.
In the second inning, Sevier County left fielder Dalton Ford gunned down Payton Marshall at the plate. The Indians right fielder was on his way to score from second on a double by Sammy Salyers, but lost a step after rounding third when he bumped into D-B coach Ryan Wagner, who was coaching third base.
Other than those two riveting plays, the game, which lasted just 1:20, sped right along to its conclusion.
According to Salyers, the Tribe catcher, a great deal of forethought went into keeping the excitement to a minimum.
“One thing that helped us defensively is that coach was giving us our report. He had it planned perfectly. We had them played and we were ready for this game,” Salyers said. “We knew which batters wanted to do what and knew where to play. Our coaches prepared us very well.”
Bailey and Marshall had two hits apiece for the Indians.
“We hit some hard balls right at them and they made nearly every single play. That’s baseball,” said Wagner. “But we’ll take it any way we can get it. A ‘W’ is a ‘W.’ We’re real excited about the region championship.”