DUNLAP, Tenn. — Notre Dame missed District 7-AA's baseball championship by two runs, losing out to Signal Mountain on run differential, but the Irish got their second straight 7-AA postseason title Tuesday with a 6-3 victory over the Eagles.
The center-stage star was junior pitcher Matt Roueche, who shrugged off some early jitters and settled in to scatter seven hits for his sixth win against one loss.
"He threw extremely well, especially the changeup. We got on him early and he adjusted. I don't think we hit a ball out of the infield after the second inning," Signal Mountain coach Bumper Reese said.
Both teams will compete Monday in the Region 4 tournament, Notre Dame at home and Signal traveling.
"I hope we see them again Wednesday [for the region championship]. That's a good club," Notre Dame coach George Oleksik said after his team notched its 23rd win against seven losses.
Roueche not only rebounded from a rough start -- and a 3-0 deficit -- but also drove in what would be the tying and winning runs with a single that capped the Irish's four-run, third-inning rally. He plated a third run with a sixth-inning single.
Rouche knew late last week that he was the likely starting pitcher. Despite several days to get his mind right, he said he was still a little nervous in the early going.
"Yeah, I was nervous the first couple of innings -- my first big game," he said.
He couldn't get a hard-breaking slider over for strikes, so he basically abandoned it and went with his fastball and changeup.
"He struggled early," Oleksik agreed, "but I'm proud of the way he hung in there and battled."
Signal jumped ahead in the first on Will Queen's RBI single and Queen basically stealing home on a two-out throw to second in an effort to catch Sam Boyette on a steal. Grant Hensley boosted the advantage to 3-0 with a long homer to left field in the third.
It was then that the Irish erupted. Nick Chambers doubled and Pat Ward and Sheldon Brogden walked before Zac Swart's sacrifice fly. Roueche then singled down the left-field line for two runs, and Grayson Hargett singled to right for another run.
The Irish added a run in the sixth on Rouche's single to left and one in the seventh on Brogden's sacrifice fly.
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 ...