The two Tennessee baseball teams seeded to go to Cochran, Ga., next week for a four-school playoff to decide the Central District's representative in the NJCAA World Series are indeed the ones to go.
They just had to work a little extra hard to get there.
One of them, nationally 11th-ranked Walters State, had to climb out of a deep hole Thursday, in fact.
The Senators (51-9) beat Volunteer State 13-9 despite giving up a six-run second inning. They got six of their own in the third inning, with the help of two errors by the third baseman, and added four in the fourth on the way to a 13-6 lead.
Like Walters, sixth-ranked Columbia State had lost Tuesday. Unlike the Senators, the Chargers already were assured of a spot in the district playoffs with their top TCCAA finish in the regular season. Like the Senators, they rebounded to win big in their first elimination game and then won again Thursday, 9-3 over Dyersburg State.
As the highest finishing tournament team aside from Columbia, Walters is going also to Middle Georgia regardless of the outcome of today's 2 p.m. region final.
Shane Riley and Reid Mattews each was 4-for-5 for the Senators, who were No. 1 in the nation much of the season, Riley doubling twice, driving in two runs and scoring two and Mattews scoring three with an RBI. Marcus Davis was 3-for-4 with two walks, a home run and two doubles, and Matt Harrell matched him with three RBIs.
Tyler Noland doubled twice and drove in three runs for Vol State, and Logan Dalton was 3-for-5. Michael Massi was 2-for-3 and scored two runs along with Dalton.
Unlike in the Senators' 8-2 loss to Dyersburg, when they were "stunned" early and stayed stunned, according to coach Ken Campbell, the Morristown-based team wasn't ready to fold its season when Vol State went up 6-0.
"Most of the time, that's what happens," Campbell acknowledged, "but their pitcher who started [Zac Curtis] threw 130-something pitches on Monday and we knew he might not be able to go long. He was throwing good at first, but we started taking pitches on him. Then we got some people on base and a couple of hits and started chipping back at them.
"We weren't looking to get all six runs back at once, but then we got to thinking: They got six, so why can't we get six?"
Columbia State leadoff man Dustin Delgado was 4-for-5 with three doubles and two RBIs, and Lucas Pippenger was 3-for-5 while T.J. Diffenderfer, Alex Vondohlen and Jesse Gavigan each had two hits and an RBI and Preston Carter had a two-run single.
Seth Staggs' three-run homer for Dyersburg in the fourth inning cut into a 5-0 Columbia lead, and Patrick Schloss, Blake Philips and Jimbo Ramsey each had two hits for the Eagles.