CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Pitching coach Jamie Tricoglou packed the District 6-AAA runner-up plaque in his bag before Soddy-Daisy left for its Region 3-AAA championship game at Walker Valley.
He wanted the Trojans to remember that less than a week ago here on Mike Turner Field they lost to Walker Valley.
They remembered, especially his pitching staff, which led the Trojans to a 2-1 victory and the team’s second region championship in Jared Hensley’s still-young head coaching tenure. The win also allowed Soddy-Daisy to even its record against Walker Valley at 2-2. It also gave the Trojans a home date Friday against Region 4 runner-up Tullahoma. Walker Valley, meanwhile, goes on the road to play at Columbia.
“This one is definitely the defining moment for our season,” Hensley told his team. “Brad Dotson did a great job. He was outstanding, unbelievable. He scattered four hits over 5 1/3 innings over a good hitting team.”
The run was charged to Dotson although the sacrifice fly came off reliever Ryan Johnson, who gave up a run-scoring sacrifice fly to Brandon Zajac that gave the Mustangs a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth.
Three outs from victory, though, Mustangs coach Joe Shamblin lifted his starter, Bobby Towne, who had matched Dotson pitch for pitch. Both had allowed only four hits and each struck out five.
With a runner on, he called for Zajac, who has excelled recently as a closer.
Damian DeMatteo led off with a bloop single to center off Towne and Jake Leffew greeted Zajac with a single, allowing Dalton Rogers to come to the plate with two on. The junior third baseman won the lefty-on-lefty dual, scorching a double down the left-field line that scored both runners.
“He’s definitely the guy you want up there in that situation. With runners in scoring position, he’s so smart, so level-headed,” Hensley said. “If anyone on the team deserves a moment like that it’s him. He has worked so hard. I bet he hit 300 balls every day last summer.”
Rogers didn’t let either Zajac’s reputation or his signature last fall on a University of Tennessee scholarship faze him.
“I see pitching like that every summer,” he said of the hard-throwing lefty. “But I love situations like that. It’s what you play. But, without a doubt, that’s my biggest hit of the year.”
Yet the game wasn’t over. Johnson, the Trojans’ closer, gave up a leadoff double to Colton Ward, which sent Hensley’s stomach rolling and lurching much as it had the first three innings when the Trojans were held without a hit.
“I admit it. I was thinking the worst. We had just had a big inning, and I thought that double might be tough to overcome,” he said.
Johnson settled down, though, inducing a pair of ground balls the shortstop and then a game-ending pop fly to short right.
“Coach Tricoglou had a game plan and our pitchers executed it,” Hensley said. “It was their night.”
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...