GREENEVILLE – Grainger’s path to a district baseball co-championship was very clear as they traveled to Rebel Hill on Thursday to take on South Greene: win both games.
The Grizzlies’ bats came alive and they also got solid pitching performances as they downed the Rebels in the doubleheader, winning 6-2 and 10-0. They enter the post-season with a 21-7 overall record and will be the number two seed in next week’s district 2-AA tournament. The tourney gets underway on Monday as the Grizz will play host to West Greene at 6 p.m. at The Den.
“We already knew what we needed to do and maybe that took some wind out of us but we got done what we had to do,” Grainger head coach Garrett Yates said. “In the first game, we were a little flat and there wasn’t a big-game feel but we got the job done. In the second game, we responded much better with our approach at the plate.”
Brady Smith got the call on the mound to start game one and he pitched four innings with six strikeouts, one walk, four hits and two earned runs before handing things over to Trever Johnson who closed things out. Eli May was unhittable in the second game as he pitched three innings, fanned four batters and walked two. Hunter Smith came in for relief and pitched the final two innings and gave up only one hit as he struck out two South Greene batters.
Yates was thrilled with May’s outing and said it needs to bleed over into next week’s district tournament. “We are going to need Eli. He has come on really strong lately and he probably has a little more energy in him than Brady or Hunter do as they have thrown more than him. Eli will have to be big and he has stepped into that spot and we feel very comfortable going to him when we have to.”
Thursday’s games was a five-inning double header as bad weather throughout the week postponed the contest multiple times. In the first game, Grainger plated five runs in the first inning with the biggest blow coming off the bat of Ian Dortch who had a two-run double. Brady Smith and Aaron Roach each drove in a run in the first. South Greene recovered after the disaster of the opening inning and limited Grainger to only one run the rest of the way, that coming when Ryland Burchett singled, stole second, went to third on a failed pick-off attempt and scored on Dawson Holt’s sacrifice fly to center field.
Holt had two stolen bases in the first game which gives him 33 for the season. He already held the single season steals record for Grainger High School but with the two he swiped on Thursday, he tied Rusty Bishop for the single season record for Rutledge and Grainger High Schools.
With May dealing on the mound, the Grizzlies’ offense seemed to feed off that on offense in game two as they won easily, 10-0. After Holt produced the game’s first run in the bottom of the first, Grainger exploded for eight runs in the second. Sawyer Stout had the play of the day as he smacked a triple to left field that scored three runs. Dortch, Cole Crumpley and Hunter Smith all had RBIs and Connor Cameron connected on a two-run double in the Grizzlies’ second-inning hit parade.
“We have done what we needed to do so far but when the tournament starts, everything changes and is completely different,” Yates said as the Grizzlies look toward the post-season. “We want to keep playing and I think we have a lot of confidence going into the tournament. Hopefully, we have a little bit of edge in us because we still have stuff left that we want to do. We have to work every day because anyone can beat you and the last few years has been proof of that for us. Losing to Claiborne (in 2019) just proves anything can happen in the post-season.”