FRANKLIN – After Sam Billington swooped in to pick up a grounder and fire to first for the final out, the Brentwood High School baseball team finally breathed a heavy sigh of relief. Oh, and the celebration was on and residents along Murray Lane likely heard the bus ride home late Wednesday.
“This is just so amazing and it’s honestly just the biggest relief,” said Billington after the Bruins clinched the District 11-4A tournament championship with a 5-4 win over Franklin. “This has been such a ride and we have all worked super hard for this.”
The win was the fourth in five games in the oldest rivalry in Williamson County and assured the Brentwood boys a spot in next week’s Region 6-4A tournament. Brentwood had also opened district tournament play Saturday with a walkoff win against the Admirals thanks to Henry Hanley.
“I really can’t describe the feeling,” said Hanley, who collected tournament MVP honors. “There’s no words to describe this feeling.
“We’re just going to step on the gas and keep this going.”
Brentwood, which used a two-out, two-run double from Hanley to score the go-ahead runs in an 8-6 nine-inning win against top-seeded Centennial Tuesday night, was facing an Admirals team that slipped past the host Cougars 2-1 in the early game Wednesday to earn a shot at the district title and extending their season.
Drew Whalen went the distance on the mound scattering six hits with seven strikeouts in a gritty performance to lead Franklin into the rivalry showdown in the nightcap.
“I knew to have a chance in this game and maybe the next, I had to get through that game against Centennial without any relief,” said Whalen, who also went 2-for-4 and had an RBI in the victory. “I was able to get into a little groove.
“We all were able to get into one after that loss Saturday to Brentwood and we carried that against Hillsboro and Overton and into the Centennial game. We had some of it tonight against Brentwood, but we had just a couple mishaps.”
Brentwood staked an early 2-0 lead with runs in the second and third, but Franklin plated three in the top of the fourth to take 3-2 edge. Garrett Giles drove in the tying run with an RBI-single after a pair of walks and Carson Hoard pushed Franklin in front when he scored on an error.
Scott Collins, who went 2-for-2 for the Bruins, responded with a hard-hit grounder that banged off Franklin pitcher Eric Smith’s right leg. Collins raced around the bases and dove into third after Smith’s errant throw to first. Collins scored on a sacrifice fly from Connor Bartley on the next at-bat to knot the game at 3-3.
Brentwood coach Bill Moore said his team has simply buckled down and battled of late.
“These guys are hungry to advance and to continue playing,” he said. “They’re a close-knit group and I think once we got into April, we just started playing a lot better and now they don’t want this to end.”
Both teams stranded runners in scoring position in the fifth with Franklin squandering a chance to break the tie after a Jaden Smoot, two-out triple. Brentwood loaded the bases with two outs on a pair of walks and a hit batter, but a ground out ended the frame.
With Whalen at the plate and the bases loaded in the sixth, Giles scored on a wild pitch as the Admirals inched in front 4-3. Brentwood answered in the bottom of the sixth with four straight walks as Franklin threw eight consecutive balls with Billington’s bases-loaded walk scoring John Pizzi with one out. The Bruins regained the lead on another wild pitch when pinch-runner Luke Walker scored before a strikeout sent the contest into the final inning.
Smoot singled on a 2-2 count with a grounder to open the frame with Billington on the mound.
Billington said he was worried he was going to “choke” when his team needed him most, but regained his confidence after getting the next Franklin batter to ground into a fielder’s choice. Hoard sent one for a ride on the next at bat that was almost over-run in deep right before Bartley leaped high to snag the second out.
The Brentwood baseball team secures the District 11-4A championship with a 5-4 win over Franklin … Bruins will host Ravenwood next, while Franklin heads to Summit in regional. The final out —> pic.twitter.com/MLphm0NaMW— Charles Pulliam (@cspulliam) May 12, 2022
“I just thought to myself, like, ‘I got this,’” Billington said of the final out. “I did what I always try to do and it worked.”
The Bruins raced out of the dugout after Billington closed the game and briefly joined the Brentwood students in deep center.
“Everybody came together, that’s really what happened,” Hanley said. “I think after we were swept by Centennial earlier in the season, that motivated us to push harder and harder. We’ve given it our all and now we get Ravenwood. It’s been a rollercoaster, but we’re ready.”
The Bruins will host the Raptors Monday night.
“It’s going to be more electric than this,” Billington added of the Battle of the Woods region showdown.
Centennial will play at Summit, the District 12-4A champs, in the other region semifinal. Franklin ended the season with a 20-15 record.
“I love all these guys,” Whalen said. “All these seniors are amazing and I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to play with. I thought we kept our cool tonight, but we had just a couple mistakes and that was the difference.”
Brentwood 5, Franklin 4, District 11-4A Championship
FHS 000 301 0 – 4 6 2
BHS 011 102 X – 5 4 1
WP – Ben Foster (1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 1 K, 2 BB). LP – Seth Gregg (0 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 K, 2 BB). S – Sam Billington (1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 K, 0 BB).
FHS – Caleb Anderson 1-2, Alex Eisenbeck 0-2, Drew Whalen 1-3, Jack Olivier 0-4, Carson Cochran 0-3, Jaden Smoot 2-4, AJ Russell 0-3, Carson Hoard 0-3, Garrett Giles 2-3.
BHS – Andrew Billington 1-1, Sam Billington 0-1, Aaron Walton 0-2, Henry Hanley 0-4, Scott Collins 2-2, Connor Bartley 0-2, Ryan Kerr 0-2, John Pizzi 1-2, JK Sparks 0-2.
2B – A. Billington. 3B – Smoot; Pizzi. SB – A. Billington 2.
Franklin 2, Centennial 1
FHS 000 020 0 – 2 8 0
CHS 100 000 0 – 1 6 0
WP – Drew Whalen (7 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 7 K, 4 BB). LP – Nolan Wells (6 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 7 K, 2 BB).
FHS – Caleb Anderson 0-3, Alex Eisenbeck 2-3, Drew Whalen 2-4, Jack Olivier 0-3, Carson Cochran 1-3, Jaden Smoot 0-3, AJ Russell 1-3, Carson Hoard 1-2, Garrett Giles 1-3.
BHS – Ryan Connally 1-3, Jason Bennett 2-4, Max Weyenberg 1-2, Jack Scearce 0-2, Malaki Moore 0-3, Ryan Sweeney 0-2, Aaron Beaman 0-3, Ryan Yates 1-3, Cannon Plowman 1-3.
2B – Bennett. RBI – Whalen, Olivier; Weyenberg.
2022 All-District 11-4A Tournament Team
MVP – Henry Hanley, Brentwood; Sam Billington, Brentwood; Andrew Billington, Brentwood; Aaron Walton, Brentwood; Paul Delligatti, Brentwood; Drew Whalen, Franklin; Caleb Anderson, Franklin; Garrett Giles, Franklin; Nolan Wells, Centennial; Ryan Connally, Centennial; Zac McCreary, Overton; Finn Patrick, Hillsboro.