KINGSPORT - Having been picked 1-2 in the Big 9 Conference before the baseball season began, Dobyns- Bennett and Science Hill didn't disappoint the pundits.
In fact, the race went down to the wire - with a coin toss set to decide the top-seeded position for the District 1-AAA tournament if Science Hill won the final game.
Dobyns-Bennett (29-4) avoided the red tape with a 3-1 victory Monday night at J. Fred Johnson Stadium as a crowd of 1,500-plus looked on.
This gave D-B a regular- season sweep of the Hilltoppers for the school year in all three major sports - football, basketball and baseball.
The difference was 6-foot-3, 200-pound Bo Burton, a fireballing right-hander with ice water in his veins and an assortment of effective pitches.
Burton, a senior, dispatched the Hilltoppers with 102 pitches, 70 of these in the strike zone. He scattered five hits.
"Bo really got tough when he had to,'' D-B coach Mike Ritz said. "He was pitching in 80-plus temperatures and did well.''
Science Hill's only run was the result of a leadoff walk to Paul Hoilman in the second inning. Benjamin McKinney singled, Trey Worley walked and Nathaniel Patterson lofted a sacrifice fly to left field.
It wasn't the only time Burton would face a bases-loaded situation. In the sixth when Science Hill had an opportunity to blow open the game, he struck out the last two batters to end the inning.
Hoilman singled and was safe at second on a fielder's choice grounder by McKinney, and Worley bunted safely to fill the bases. Burton bore down to fan Lance Reed and John Barcel, warding off the threat.
"They got three runners on and I tried to keep my composure,'' Burton said. "When you're in that type of predicament, you've got to stay focused and make good pitches. Luckily, we got out of it.''
He struck out Reed with a high fastball and Barcel with a low-and-away fastball.
"I'll probably be sore tomorrow,'' Burton said, "but it's worth it. Science Hill has a great team. I knew we'd have to play well to win.
"We've had an outstanding run but the season isn't over yet. We'll have to win a lot more games.''
Burton unleashed a 90 mph pitch and another at 89 in the first frame.
D-B got off to a 2-0 start in the first inning. After a double play, Jordan Adams reached base on an error and Easton Ring singled. Darin Trent then sliced a two-run double into the right-field corner.
The Indians got their insurance run in the sixth. Trent lived on an error and scored on David Atchley's two-out single to left.
Trent, who usually plays in the shadow of twin brother Derek, made an adjustment in his swing before the game.
"In batting practice we noticed Darin was hitting the ball with his hands too high on the bat,'' Ritz said. "We had him lower his hands and it changed the position of the barrel.''
D-B finished the conference race with a 16-0 record, extending its three-season tally to 43-1. The Indians were 12-0 in 2005 when it was the Big 7 and 15-1 last year.
Science Hill left fielder Zach Howell threw out two D-B runners - Derek Trent at the plate trying to score on Ring's single in the fifth and Atchley at second attempting to stretch a single in the sixth.
Science Hill stranded nine runners.
"We were one hit away from tying the score or taking the lead,'' Science Hill coach Bill McKinney said. "I felt good about the way we competed. At our place, (the Indians) played as well as they could and we didn't. I was proud of our guys tonight.''
The loss was pinned on starter Lucas Anderson. Reliever Chas Byrne hit 90 mph on the radar gun once.
D-B, by winning the conference title outright, earned a first-round bye for the district tournament, which begins Friday night at Sullivan South. D-B likely won't play until the third day.
Science Hill (27-5, 14-2) settled for second place and must win an opening-round game to attain double-elimination status in the tourney.