Reese Phillips has never flinched under center in a football game, but baseball is a different story -- or at least it was once.
"I used to freak out in baseball when I was younger. I guess as I've gotten older I don't get nervous," he said Friday.
Even after Grundy County scored three unearned runs on a plethora of Eagles errors, the junior quarterback and pitcher maintained his cool in a 4-3 District 7-AA tournament victory. Signal Mountain scored all its runs in the sixth inning.
In the opener of a three-game series, Grundy went up 3-0 and coach Ted Ladd's son Alex was pitching a no-hitter. The senior left-hander, making his way back from a knee ligament injury, didn't have a single strikeout, but he induced 10 flyouts from the 19 batters he faced.
"This was only his second game back [to pitch], and his legs gave out," Coach Ladd said. "He hasn't been able to pitch enough to build up that stamina."
Said Signal coach Bumper Reese: "This is the first time I had seen Ladd, and he was so poised out there. He moved the ball up, down, in, out, and when we did get a baserunner he controlled the bases."
Phillips (7-1) did the same, registering seven strikeouts in a seven-inning, 90-pitch showing.
"He hasn't given up an earned run in the district," Coach Reese said, "and he hasn't given up an earned run since our first game of the season [against McCallie]."
Phillips finished with a three-hitter.
"I never got nervous, but this is also the first time I didn't show any emotion -- at least until I got in the dugout," he said. "I've told the guys all year if we hit we'll win. I'm proud of them. This team fights and the guys wanted it."
The Eagles, kept off-balance by Ladd, were actually glad to see a right-hander with a fastball, and they welcomed Nick Shrum with four consecutive hits in the bottom of the sixth. Combined with three Grundy errors, that was enough for Signal to pull out the victory.
"I'll take them any way I can get them, but [Grundy] shouldn't have scored any," Coach Reese said. "If we don't make errors, Reese has another shutout. Reese held them where they were. Both teams took advantage of mistakes."
Grundy has struggled in the latter half of the season due to injuries and suspensions or dismissals.
"We played hard. Both teams did. We booted it around late and gave it back to them," Coach Ladd said.
The teams meet again tonight at 7 at Grundy County.
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 ...