CHURCH HILL — Some baseball coaches have a lucky rabbit’s foot. Science Hill’s Ryan Edwards has a Lucky Rabbitts.
Hilltoppers pitcher Grant Rabbitts collected a save in Science Hill’s 8-6 win that forced a second game in Thursday’s District 1-AAA tournament finals.
The Johnson City sophomore went on to collect a compete-game victory as Science Hill prevailed 4-3 in the nightcap for the championship.
“At the beginning of the season we had a doubleheader in game two and game three and he got two saves in a day against Shelbyville and Oakland,” said Edwards, whose team will host Sevier County in Monday’s opening round of Region 1-AAA play.
“I didn’t think he could top that, but today he did. He just kept making pitches and we made good plays out there for him. He trusted his stuff the whole game.”
The right-handed Rabbitts (5-2) gave the ‘Toppers four consecutive shutout innings after Science Hill took the 4-3 lead in the third inning off an RBI double by Will Craig and an RBI single from David Bryant.
Reed Hayes had a monster day at the plate, giving Science Hill a decisive three-run homer in the opening game and stroking a two-run shot to get things started in the second game.
Craig went 2-for-3 with an RBI in both games for the Hilltoppers (30-8).
Dobyns-Bennett nearly plated the tying run in the fourth inning of the second game, but leadoff man Mason Ewers slipped on the grass while rounding third and got thrown out in a bang-bang play at the plate.
Ewers, who had an RBI double in the second inning, tried to get the tying run into scoring position again in the seventh when he attempted to steal second. Science Hill catcher David Bryant caught him red-handed with a great throw.
“They were two good ballgames but they played a lot better than we did tonight,” said D-B coach Ryan Wagner, whose squad will travel to Morristown West on Monday.
“We didn’t pitch very well. In the first game, we walked two and hit four. They got key hits when they needed and we didn’t until the last inning,” he said.
That frame saw the Tribe (29-6) put pressure on Science Hill with Austin Dayton’s three-run blast to left off reliever Brandon Knack (5-0), trimming Johnson City’s lead to two runs.
That’s when Edwards trotted out Rabbitts, who, after giving up a single to Logan Gentry, came up with two consecutive strikeouts to collect to seal the need for the second game.
Gentry had two hits in the opener for the Indians. Chris Cook had a double and a triple and Christian Bailey had a single and two RBIs.
Sammy Stewart was the only D-B player with multiple hits in the second game even though sever players, including Dayton, did their utmost to give the ball a ride.
Wagner credited Science Hill’s fielding for playing his hitters right. And even when they were out of alignment, the at-bats seemed to fall out Science Hill’s way.
“We hit some good balls and they had us played right,” Wagner said. “It was a credit to them, but we had some bad breaks, too.
“We’re playing Monday and that was our goal,” he continued. “Obviously we wanted to win the district tournament but we’ve got to find a way to get back up. And we will.”