MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Two years removed from Tommy John elbow surgery and with soreness still tightening the muscles in his right arm after just two days' rest since his last start, McCallie senior Elliott Dockery pitched the game of his life when his team needed him most.
With the Division II-AA state championship on the line, the senior right-hander threw 108 gutsy pitches, allowing just four hits and striking out eight to lead the Blue Tornado to an 8-0 win over Memphis University School.
Dockery was not scheduled to start, but with McCallie desperately short on arms after using five pitchers in a game-one loss Thursday to the Owls, he volunteered his services and helped the Tornado earn their first baseball state title since 1976.
"Coming into today, I knew to be mentally ready in case there were two games," said Dockery, who opened the state tournament with a win over nationally ranked Christian Brothers. "I just felt like I might be needed for an inning or two, but after we burned up so much of our pitching in that first game, I decided I would throw until my arm fell off.
"My arm was hurting the whole time, and it's sore now, but I'm not worried about that. Since the first day of weightlifting in the fall, this is what we've all talked about. This day was our goal all along, so to be part of the team to win it for the first time in so long, it's just the best feeling there is."
MUS, which has finished runner-up four of the last five years, forced a deciding second game by winning 10-7. McCallie actually rallied from down 10-1 and had the potential tying run at the plate but failed to get any closer, setting up a winner-take-all second game.
The Blue Tornado (28-11) wasted no time in taking command, scoring five runs in the second inning, adding another in the third and two in the sixth. That was more than enough for Dockery, who approached pitching coach Robert Long between games and offered his services.
"We had planned to throw Winston Whitener, but he and [game-one starter] Drew Vaughn are similar," said second-year McCallie coach Greg Payne. "Once Elliott told Coach Long he could give us at least a couple of innings, we decided to put him out there. He's a senior and he knew this was the last game he would ever play in, so you knew he was going to give you everything he had.
"He told me he'd throw till he couldn't throw anymore. I checked on him in the third inning but not again after that, because I just figured he would tell us when he couldn't go anymore. I'll never forget that kid for winning two games in the state tournament, on less than two days' rest. That just showed you how much heart he has."
Tyler Payne, the coach's son, and Christian Burnett each had two hits and an RBI for McCallie, which got RBIs also from John Hennen, William Korn, Tyson Buchanan and Thomas Boals.
"We never do anything the easy way, so we had to come back and win it in the second game with our backs to the wall," Coach Payne said. "Once we got those five runs in the second, with Elliott on the mound, I felt good about our chances.
"From the time you're a player, to now as a coach, you always dream of this. But now that it's happened, this is better than I ever dreamed it would feel. Just unbelievable. And to win it with my son on the team, that's something we'll have together forever."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293.
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...