BY TREY WILLIAMS SPORTS CORRESPONDENT
BRISTOL, Tenn. – Tennessee High’s baseball program’s return to the state tournament took 42 years, but the final hurdle was passed in a hurry.
The Vikings took care of Gibbs in four and a half innings on Friday, racking up 15 hits in a 16-3 win in a Class 3A section at Tod Houston Field.
Tennessee High (27-8) lost 2-0 at home in the section to eventual state champion Farragut in 2019, and 10th-year head coach Preston Roberts was grateful for another chance at a trip to Murfreesboro.
“I’ve never been a player or a coach,” said Roberts, a Dobyns-Bennett (Class of ’99) alum who also spent six years as a Vikings assistant. “That’s what we’ve been talking about since we’ve been here. Incredible. Really proud of our guys. Forty-two, you know, gives me chills.
The game was pushed back to 5 p.m. due to Tennessee High’s graduation ceremonies on Friday night, and senior Brayden Blevins played like he wasn’t going to be late.
People also read…
Blevins allowed two earned runs in five innings and went 3 for 4 with three doubles and five RBIs.
“With Brayden, nothing really seems to bother him,” Roberts said. “He came out and did a great job.”
Leading off batter Brayden Wilhoit was 3 for 4 with three runs, two interceptions and an RBI. Evan Mutter, No. 2 in the roster, was 3 for 3 with a double, a walk, two RBIs and four runs. And No. 3 hitter Andrew Dingus was 3-for-3 with a double, a walk, an RBI and four runs.
Add to that Blevins’ cleanup night at home plate, and the Vikings’ top four hitters in the lineup were 12 for 14 with 12 runs and nine RBIs.
Blevins’ two-point brace capped a first three-pointer for Tennessee High. Six straight batters for the Vikings reached on a two-out rally that led to a second four run. Mutter had a double RBI on the right field wall during the frame.
The Vikings hit five straight two-out batters in the third, which was another four-run frame.
“We just set the tone early,” Roberts said. “I mean, we put twisted numbers all game on the scoreboard. I’m just super proud of these guys.
Gibbs (13-23), the reigning Class 2A state champions, was perhaps a year ahead of schedule to return to the section. The Eagles have launched two seniors.
“We’re relatively young,” Gibbs coach Geff Davis said. “It’s a great experience to come here. And I don’t think a lot of people expected us to play on Friday. And maybe we weren’t expecting to play on Friday. But we have played well the last two weeks.
“Coach Roberts has a really good team. And I don’t want to jinx them or anything, but man he has a good chance of winning next week. They did as well as we did l And on the mound, Blevins and Dingus, you know, they have solid pitching and they hit well and they’re good defensively.
The last time a sectional game was played at Tod Houston Field, it produced a state champion. Who knows, it could happen again. The 2019 Vikings, thanks to Gavin Cross, gave Farragut a tougher time than Murfreesboro.
“We knew at the start of the year that we had a team that had a shot at it,” Roberts said. “You know, I told our guys – and no offense to Gibbs – but you know, that Farragut team had seven Division One players in that roster.”
Mutter, the shortstop, was in eighth grade when the Vikings lost to Farragut. He lost his first season due to COVID-19.
“It means a lot (to reach the state tournament),” Mutter said. “We’ve been showing it all year. It’s good to finally know that we’ve made it.