SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn.-By efficiently taking care of business in just over an hour, South Pittsburg's baseball team took less time Friday to qualify for the state tournament than it will need to ride to Murfreesboro next week.
Senior Hunter Giles and junior Jacob Toney, the Pirates' ace left-handers, combined to pitch a no-hitter, and runs came in bunches early as South Pittsburg whipped Jackson County 12-0 in a Class A sectional. The Pirates (35-2) will open the state tournament Tuesday evening against an opponent to be determined by a blind draw this morning.
"All of our guys are playing with a lot of confidence right now," South Pittsburg coach Wesley Stone said. "We're playing our best baseball at just the right time. All we wanted was a chance - just get to the tournament - and now we've got it."
Giles (10-0) worked four innings, striking out three and walking one before Toney came on for a five-pitch fifth to close out the win and clinch the Pirates' first trip to the state tournament since they won the championship in 1996.
On the way to its 19th win by the TSSAA's 10-run mercy rule this season, the Pirates struck for three runs before making an out in the home half of the first inning. Jake Stone's RBI single was followed by a monster home run to left field by Toney. With two out, Giles added an RBI double and Andy Case singled in a run for a five-run first inning.
"Once we got that big early lead, I was able to just relax and challenge them a lot more," said Giles, who has two one-hitters this season and eight complete-game wins. "I knew I had a no-hitter going and I wanted to finish out the game, but the important thing was getting this win."
The Blue Devils (18-5) got one baserunner in the first on a walk and another on a hit batter. Jackson County pitcher Jordan Collier, who has signed with region junior college champion Columbia State, was replaced in the third with no out, after the Pirates had built an 8-0 lead.
Matt Allen finished with three stolen bases for the Pirates and scored twice, while Toney, Case and Jacob Howard each added two hits and two RBIs. Every South Pittsburg batter got on base at least once.
"We heard he was a fastball pitcher, so I knew right away that was our kind of guy to face," said Toney, who has homered twice in three games since returning from a hand injury. "As soon as I made contact, I knew it was gone. I just dropped the bat, put my head down and smiled, because any time we can get a couple of early runs, we're tough."
Friendship Christian beat Marion County 14-1 in their sectional at Lebanon.