FRANKLIN – The Centennial High School baseball team is headed to the Class 4A state tournament for the second consecutive season after powering past Green Hill on Friday using a six-run second inning and more dominant pitching in the final game of a three-game sectional series.
Centennial clinched the state berth with a 6-3 victory, bouncing back from a 6-0 loss to the Hawks in Game 2 earlier Friday. The Franklin boys won 4-0 on Thursday.
“This is the first time in school history that we have made it to state in back to back years,” Centennial senior Eli Lamb said. “It is only the third time overall. To be the senior class that helped us get there as juniors and to do it again this year is insane.”
Centennial coach Rob Baughman praised his boys for battling back to continue another historic season.
“It is just a credit to our kids and how hard they have fought,” Baughman said. “I could not be more proud of these guys because they worked extremely hard and never gave up.”
Lamb tallied the win on the mound, pitching five innings. He scattered four hits with two earned and six strikeouts. Freshman Braden Serbin locked down the save by pitching two innings with three strikeouts and two hits allowed.
“Over the course of the first two games, I think we saw their hitter’s tendencies and learned from it,” said Lamb, a Georgia Southern signee. “Hats off to Serbin, who is a freshman, coming into the sixth inning in a do-or-die sectional game. It is incredible to watch him pitch every time he goes out there.”
Lamb has been working his way back into the rotation for the Cougars. The senior played a major role in leading Centennial to state last year as a top pitcher.
“Eli is a dog,” said Centennial senior Ryan Sweeney, who went 2-for-3 with a triple and RBI.
“I am so happy for Eli because he has been hurt this season and battled through it,” added Baughman.
The veteran coach said Serbin has also been "a really important piece to our puzzle.”
The Cougars, now 24-12 overall, will play Tuesday at 4 p.m. at Oakland against Walker Valley (22-13) to kick off Spring Fling.
Centennial's big inning Friday in the rubber match started with two outs when seniors Aaron Beaman and Malaki Moore laid down singles. Senior Ryan Yates, who pitched a no-hitter Thursday, drove in Beaman with another single. Junior Max Weyenberg walked to load the bases for the Cougars, and senior Jason Bennett drove in two more runs to stretch the advantage to 3-0.
“It was good to spark a couple of hits at the start,” Sweeney said. “Beaman hit a good ball down the line. Jack put a couple balls in play moving guys over. We had a couple of balls in the gap.”
Weyenberg made it 4-0 on a rundown play, avoiding the tag to score while Kyler Wood, pinch-running for Bennett, advanced to third. Wood scored on a RBI-double by junior Erimel Rosado. The final run came on Sweeney's triple for a 6-0 lead.
Sweeney said he knew that Green Hill pitchers were throwing a lot of fastballs.
“I thought he was going to give me something good and it was a chest high fastball," he said of his three-bagger. "I hit it over the center fielder.”
Lamb said watching his team's offense roll motivates him while pitching.
“It helps so much to have guys one through nine that I know can get a hit anytime they are up," Lamb said. “For them to give me six runs in an inning put my confidence through the roof."
Green Hill managed to cut into the deficit in the top of the third, scoring two runs. Gabe Gray had a leadoff single, and Tate Riley walked to put runners on first and second before Dominic Waller blasted a single into right field to load the bases. The Hawks plated one run with a sacrifice fly and Griggs Chandler drove in Riley with a single before Centennial turned a double play to stop Green Hill.
The score stayed 6-2 until the top of the sixth when the Hawks inched closer. Gray tallied a one-out single in the inning and was driven in by Waller's double. A fly out sent the game into the bottom of the sixth.
FRANKLIN – Centennial High School senior pitcher Ryan Yates pitched a gem to kick off the Cl…
Serbin sandwiched Gray's single with Ks and after a ground out and fly out, closed the door with another strikeout.
Centennial advanced to state for the first time since 2014 last year. The boys dropped both contests in Murfreesboro.
“We have been there a couple of times now, and we want to go win some games,” Baughman said. “We get a chance to compete for a state championship, and I am pretty confident that is what our guys are going to do.”
Lamb said Centennial was kind of just satisfied with reaching state in 2022.
“Last year, I think we surprised ourselves and kind of went through the motions,” he said. “We are playing with a ton of confidence right now. We don’t care who is in the other dugout.
"We are going to show up and play our butts off and compete for a state championship.”
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