Signal Mountain's hitting has gotten better as high school baseball teams move toward next week's postseason play, and the Eagles had their third double-digit hit performance in four games Tuesday.
Even facing Sequatchie County ace Dakota Hudson, the Eagles had 10 hits in an 8-2 victory that secured their first District 7-AA championship.
In a winner-take-all, loser-to-third game at Signal Mountain, the hosts nailed down top seeding in the district tournament, which begins a week from Thursday with single-elimination play-in games.
"They've bought into the two-strike mentality -- done a super job of hitting with strikes on the board," Signal coach Bumper Reese said of his batters. "We have been moving runners over and have gotten a lot of hits lately with runners in scoring position."
Leading the Eagles' hefty offensive showing was designated hitter Ben Philyaw, who went 3-for-3 with a double, a run scored and an RBI.
"Bumper has said all along to just put the ball in play," Philyaw said. "This is a huge win for us -- our first district championship -- and it's great for the guys who have been here all four years. I'm just interested now to see how we finish up."
Signal Mountain and Notre Dame, which locked up the second spot with an 8-0 Tuesday win over Grundy County, will have byes. Sequatchie and fourth-place finisher Grundy County will host the play-in games May 4 against Chattanooga Christian and Bledsoe County, respectively.
Those winners will advance to best-of-three semifinals scheduled for May 5-6 and May 8. Signal will meet the Sequatchie-CCS winner and Notre Dame will take on the Grundy-Bledsoe winner.
Hudson had given up no more than four hits in each of his previous five outings.
"The kid is good," Reese said. "Both of their kids throw hard, and to be honest we've been working the last week or so on fastball pitching."
It paid off. The Eagles were able to chase Hudson after four innings, and by then they had an 8-1 lead.
"Dakota didn't have his best game, but it wasn't just him," Sequatchie coach Aaron Simmons said. "You could see it in how the guys were carrying themselves. We have a team that can do a lot of damage, but we got down early and couldn't get over the hump."
Signal pitcher Reese Phillips entered the game with five shutout wins and finally surrendered a pair of unearned runs, but the junior scattered three hits and struck out 11 for the win.
"The biggest key for him was getting ahead in the count," Simmons said.
"Reese did well," Coach Reese said. "He didn't throw that many pitches, and after we got the lead he was throwing to let the defense play. They hit some balls well, but we were just in the right spots."
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 ...