published Monday, March 19th, 2012

East Hamilton repeats at Wildcat Classic

East Hamilton catcher Josh Day prepares to throw Notre Dame's Austin Coombes out as he tries to reach first on a passed ball third strike in the finals of the Hixson Wildcat baseball tournament Sunday at Hixson High School.
East Hamilton catcher Josh Day prepares to throw Notre Dame's Austin Coombes out as he tries to reach first on a passed ball third strike in the finals of the Hixson Wildcat baseball tournament Sunday at Hixson High School.
Photo by John Rawlston.

Charles Chavis' swing may never make a highlight video but it was good enough to give a .400 batting average a year ago and good enough Sunday to give East Hamilton its second straight Wildcat Classic championship.

The Hurricanes' No. 7 hitter, the left-handed hitting Chavis stroked a game-winning, eighth-inning single the opposite way, lifting his team to a 10-9 victory over the Irish.

The win was sweet for a pair of East Hamilton coaches. Hurricanes assistant Drew Friedrich was Notre Dame's head coach a year ago and Steve Garland, beginning just his 14th season as a head coach, picked up his 301st career victory.

As always with Garland, though, the game and its aftermath was to be about the kids, who won two extra-inning games Sunday to take the championship.

"I'm really proud of everybody," he said. "It took everybody from the guys that pitched to the guy that got the game-winning RBI, even the guys that didn't get in the game."

East Hamilton was stretched to the limit before winning its semifinal over Gwinnett County, a home-schooled team based just outside of Atlanta, while Notre Dame had a relatively easy semifinal win -- the Irish's fifth straight to begin the season -- over Bradley Central.

"We played a really tough game late Saturday against Pope John Paul [II] but they had to go home so we advanced to the semis," Garland said. "By rights they probably should have been here playing this afternoon."

The Hurricanes tried their best to give their semifinal away, leading by as many as seven runs at one point before having to score one in their last at-bat to advance.

"We made a lot of mistakes, but we overcame them," Garland told his team. "But then we have never been about mistakes but about working."

That late game against PJP II, the second of two the Hurricanes played Saturday, ended about 11:30.

"We were a little fatigued, but we were tickled to get to play," Garland said. "We got to use a lot of pitchers, and there are things in these games that you just can't simulate in practice."

Notre Dame plated two in the first, one on Sheldon Brogdon's solo home run, his third of the season, and went up 4-1 in the third on singles from Jackson Bostain and Zac Swartout.

The Hurricanes, though they tied the game three times, didn't take a lead until the bottom of the eighth when Chavis looped his two-out single to left with the infield shaded the other way.

"This was good baseball. Both teams played well, and I liked the way our kids bounced back," Notre Dame coach George Oleksik said.

The Irish played six games in three days.

about Ward Gossett...

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 ...

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