GRAY — Science Hill won its third District 1-AAA baseball championship Thursday night under coach Ryan Edwards.
The Hilltoppers (27-13) put away David Crockett 17-7 in a five-inning game.
Science Hill, after losing Wednesday to the Pioneers for the first time in five years, fell behind 5-1 in the third inning. But an eight-run rumble in the bottom of the frame proved decisive.
Daniel Norris, the Hilltoppers’ franchise player, stood quietly by the dugout holding the Most Valuable Player plaque as teammates and fans celebrated after the game.
“Obviously, it’s a great honor,’’ he said of being chosen MVP, “but this is a team game.’’
Earlier in the tournament, the modest junior fireballer pitched an 18-strikeout no-hitter, and one of his deliveries was clocked at 94 mph. He also drove in 16 runs, including eight in a five-inning game.
“We knew we were going to have to hit the ball,’’ Edwards said. “Once we got some hits going, we started rolling.’’
Edwards immediately switched his attention to Monday’s Region 1 playoffs.
Science Hill will host Jefferson County, the District 2 runner-up.
“I know (the Patriots) have been putting up some 20-spots,’’ the ’Toppers coach said. “They’ve scored a lot of runs in recent games. They can hit the ball one through nine in the lineup.’’
Norris, one of the nation’s top prospects, will be pitching the game on a full week’s rest. His career record is 23-1.
After Joe Ganger’s three-run homer highlighted a four-run burst by Crockett in the third, Science Hill thundered back in the home half of the frame to score eight runs. Back-to-back doubles by Will Carter, Will Craig and Kevin Nelson and Norris’ bases-clearing triple did the heavy damage.
“Corey McPherson drew a walk to get Norris to the plate,’’ Edwards said. “That inning was huge.’’
Crockett sent out four pitchers to face Science Hill’s potent bats. Neither had much success.
“We were a little depleted,’’ Crockett coach Scott Hagy said of his staff.
Carter, with relief from Logan Wright, was credited with the win.
“Logan is mentally tough,’’ Edwards said. “We knew he’d compete when we put him out there.’’
Hagy said fatigue finally took its toll. “Being on the field six days in a row is a tall order for any high school team,’’ he said. “Science Hill had one day off. We played at a high level for 51/3 games. (The Hilltoppers) hit the ball well and deserved to win. Maybe we’ll get another shot at them.’’
The Pioneers (23-13) must travel on Monday to Sevier County to play the District 2 champion.
Clint Freeman, Crockett’s ace, will be on the mound.
Monday’s winners automatically qualify for the May 21 sectionals. The region championship game will merely determine which team gets to host in the sectionals.
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