Bunch, 'D' propel Bears

By JOE CANNON
Posted 5/14/18

Strong pitching, great defense and just enough runs propelled Bradley Central to its second TSSAA Sectional berth in the last three years.“It was good enough to win,” declared Bear head coach …

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Bunch, 'D' propel Bears

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Strong pitching, great defense and just enough runs propelled Bradley Central to its second TSSAA Sectional berth in the last three years.

“It was good enough to win,” declared Bear head coach Travis Adams after the 2-1 victory over Warren County in the Region 3-AAA semifinal game at the McKenzie Baseball Complex on Monday evening.

“Andy Bunch’s pitching and our defense behind him is the storyline tonight,” he said of the senior right-hander’s three-hit, complete game effort.

“Pete Williams struggled at the plate, but beat them with his glove with three great plays,” Adams said of his senior shortstop flashing the leather.

“At this level you are facing good pitching and runs are hard to come by, so you have to keep the other team down with your defense and pitching.”

The victory advances Bradley (24-11) to the "Sweet 16" and Wednesday evening’s Region 3 title game at the home of District 6 champion Cookeville. First pitch is set for 7 p.m. CST.

The Cavaliers (23-6) downed Walker Valley 7-5 Monday in their semifinal matchup (see related story, this page).

Wednesday’s Region 3 champion will host either Siegel (26-7) or Stewarts Creek (18-13) in Friday’s TSSAA Sectional playoffs. The Region 3 runner up will have to travel to either Murfreesboro or Smyrna for their shot at a state tournament bid.

After both teams went down in order in Monday’s opening inning, Warren County (19-12) got a pair of base runners in the second frame, thanks to a two-out error and Bunch’s only walk of the evening.

Williams made the first of his “SportsCenter” highlight plays to quell the threat, snagging a ball headed up the hole, then turning and firing a bullet to first the nip the batter for the third out.

Bradley got a runner on base to open the bottom of the second, but the Pioneers turned a nice 4-6-3 double play to keep things at bay.

The Bears finally got something going in their next at bat when senior Briar Lee laced a two-out single to break the ice.

Lee University commit Dylan Standifer followed with a rocket shot that pinged off the right field fence for a triple to put the first run on the board with his 24th RBI.

The junior leadoff batter is now hitting .355 on the season with a .478 OBP, including 16 of his 36 hits going for extra bases.

After a scoreless fourth, Williams showed off his glove work again in the top of the fifth, making a diving snag of a hard hit line drive for the second out and stabbing another shot in the hole to his right and firing to first off his back foot to get the batter for the final out.

“Pete was making the kind of plays you see on TV,” praised Bunch. “Defense played a major role in this win.”

Bradley tacked on what turned out to be the deciding run when District 5-AAA Player of the Year Preston Taylor (.329/.436) beat out an infield hit before fellow senior Tucker Cox (.253/.364) laced a one-out double to the left-center field fence to plate courtesy runner Freddie Johnson.

Warren County put an unearned run on the scoreboard in the top of the sixth.

Brooks Helton led off with a single and his pinch runner advanced to second on a passed ball. After a sacrifice bunt moved him to third, he came home on a wild pitch.

Bunch then bounced back to get the final half dozen Pioneers in order to close out his eighth pitching victory in nine decisions this season.

“It was hot out here [the mercury hitting 93 was the hottest temperature on May 14th in the last 137 years, according to records] and I was sweating,” related Bunch, who lowered his earned run average to 0.93.

“The biggest thing coming into the game was this could have been the last game for us seniors. I just kept thinking, we’re not ready to go home yet.”

“This was a do-or-die game and Warren fought hard, but we were able to do what we needed to, to win. This gives us at least two more games,” explained Coach Adams, who is taking his third team to the substate in his 11 years at the Bear helm.

“Dylan (Standifer) and Tucker (Cox) came through with big hits for us and Briar (Lee) and Preston (Taylor) got on in front of them to be in position to score.”

“Cookeville is a tough team and playing up there makes it tougher on us, but we’ll go and give them all we’ve got,” Adams assessed.


Region 3-AAA Tournament

Semifinal Game

Monday, May 14

at the McKenzie Baseball Complex

Warren County;000;001;0 — 1  3  0

Bradley Central;001;010;x — 2  5  2

WP: Andy Bunch (8-1) 7 IP, 3 hits, 2 K's, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 0 ER. LP: Hollingworth 4 1/3 IP, 5 hits, 5 K's, 1 BB, 2 ER. 3B: Dylan Standifer (BC). 2B: Tucker Cox (BC): Pete Williams (BC). RBIs: Standifer, Cox (BC). LOB: WC 5, BC 4. Highlights: Jack Keele 1-2, 1.2 IP, 0 H, 3 Ks, 2 BB, 0 ER: Smith 1-3: Brooks Helton 1-3 (WC). Standifer 1-2, 3B, BB, RBI: Cox 1-2, 2B, RBI: Briar Lee 1-2, run: Preston Taylor 1-2: Caden Sherlin 1-3 (BC). Records: Warren County 19-12: Bradley Central 24-11.

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