Brentwood (32-7) beat Beech (35-10) 6-2 Saturday afternoon at Granny White Park to advance to the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association state championship for a second year in a row in a six-and-a-half inning battle.
But the game was over in only two innings. Really, only two outs.
The Lady Bruins punched a very talented Beech team in the mouth three times in those two innings, sandwiching a pair of bases loaded, one-out escapes around a three-run first inning where five straight batters reached.
“This feels really good, for a million different reasons,” said Brentwood head coach Erica Powell. “We have a small team of small girls, not the most athletic in the world, but they work hard, and they just never give up.
“It was a team effort. We had a diving catch over here, a double play, big hits up and down the line-up. And Hannah (Koenig) did a great job pitching as per usual.”
It didn’t look that good to start. The Lady Bucs led off with single and picked up an out with a pop-up. That led Brentwood to intentionally walk Kennedi McCurry, who leads the state in home runs. Beech loaded the bases with a single and appeared ready to draw first blood. But Koenig battled through a 15-pitch, 9-foul ball batter for a strike out, then struck out the next batter swinging, too.
You could see the air go out of the Lady Bucs.
“That was pretty stressful,” Koenig said the extended battle. “We really didn’t know what to throw her because we haven’t played Beech before, so we weren’t sure what she liked and what she didn’t. We just kept going with my best pitches and finally got her. It’s probably the most excited I’ve ever been after a strike out.
“When they loaded the bases in the first and we got out of it, I said, ‘We just sucked the life out of them.’ I really think that’s what happened.”
Ansley Casillas took one for the team to open for Brentwood, going to first after being hit by a pitch. The measure just intensified the Lady Bruins confidence as Kayla Mills, Koenig, and Kaleigh Bottoms all singled, giving Brentwood a 1-0 lead and bases loaded. Elisabeth Laviolette picked up an RBI on a don’t-blink full count walk that scored Mills before Jenna Galloway’s sacrifice fly to left center picked up the final run.
The last gasp for the Lady Bucs came in the second, when they loaded the bases again on a walk and a pair of singles with only one out, but again Koenig took control, forcing a fly ball to short and blowing a third strike past McCurry for the final out.
Brentwood added a pair of insurance runs in the fourth when Emily Cockrill, hitting in the ninth slot, slammed her second double of the day, scoring when Casillas followed immediately with a towering shot over the fence in left.
“I knew there was a lot of pressure,” explained Cockrill, a freshman. “I knew I had to do my best to help the team. I just saw and said, ‘Yep, that’s my pitch’.”
Powell was proud of the first-year player’s performance.
“There is a specific reason she’s in that ninth spot - to turn the line-up over," she said. "And that’s why she’s been there all year, because she does a good job of that.”
Both teams tallied a scratch in the fifth frame, with Beech using a pair of singles and an error to earn their first run, while Laviolette scored on Kaylee Seidel’s double. Beech got one more in the top of the seventh but got caught in a double play to end the contest.
Both team pounded out ten hits, but Beech left 13 runners stranded to Brentwood’s nine. Koenig continued to add to her career strike-out total, sitting seven while walking only four.
The victory sends Brentwood back to Murfreesboro on Tuesday, against an opponent and start time to be named later.