NOTE: This is the start of a weekly Thursday notebook on Tennessee high school baseball.
Some of his gray hair may have gone white last weekend, but if drama is what it takes to get the job done, Chattanooga Christian baseball coach John Visser can endure it.
The Chargers got their first tournament championship since 2003 - the last year they reached the state tournament - last weekend in South Pittsburg, capturing the Homerun Club Classic. And they did so with youth and late-inning finishes.
CCS was down 4-0 in the semifinal against Grundy County and trailed 5-0 and 7-5 in the championship game with White County. The Chargers previously had a tying homer in the top of the seventh from Garrett Woody to force an eight-inning tie with Silverdale.
Jared Miller hit a bases-loaded single to win the Grundy game and Lance Carter singled home a runner from second against White County. Both hits came with two out in the seventh inning.
Prior to the heroics last weekend, CCS's last baseball championship was in Lookout Valley's Yellow Jacket Classic.
"We have five seniors pulling the weight, but the difference from last year to this year is that we have more depth," Chargers assistant Forrest Walker said. "A sophomore got the [pitching] win in the championship game and a freshman in the semifinal. We have some freshmen and sophomores that are making an impact, and we feel like we can call on a freshman or a sophomore and feel fairly confident they'll get the job done."
The Chargers open District 7-AA play Monday against Grundy County.
Greg Payne has been around, coaching at a handful of schools before landing at McCallie in time for the 2013 season.
What he discovered was something he'd never previously had. The Blue Tornado has seven players who hit left-handed, which is even more out of the ordinary because all throw right-handed.
There was little debate, if any, about Baylor again being a possible postseason candidate. Pitching was thought to be shaky but the Red Raiders have always been able to hit, and they entered the week averaging close to 10 runs per game.
They are 5-0 for the first time in years, so long ago that coach Gene Etter, he of the legendary memory, couldn't pin down the last time that was.
Red Bank slugger Tyler Phillips is headed to the doctor this morning with hopes of being fully cleared for baseball after recovering from surgery to repair a football-related knee injury.
Even if he is unable to get behind the plate, Phillips' bat will add another power stick to the Lions' order. It's likely he'll hit third or fourth, ahead of or behind Hagen Wilkey.
Phillips has decided to continue his baseball collegiately and has accepted an academic scholarship from Covenant College.
"We are told everything happens for a reason, and through my injury I found Covenant, a school I would have never thought about visiting," he said. "I am excited about joining their baseball program and looking forward to all the school has to offer."
The annual Ooltewah Invitational tournament begins tonight with games at Ooltewah, Bradley Central, Soddy-Daisy and Red Bank.
Chattanooga-area schools in the 12-team tournament include the four hosts along with Boyd-Buchanan, Cleveland, Polk County, Sequatchie County and Soddy-Daisy. Out-of-town competition includes Independence, Lawrence County and South Fayette, Pa. The championship game is set for 8 p.m. Saturday.
Lookout Valley's annual Class A tournament begins a week from today and runs through the following Saturday with area teams Boyd-Buchanan and South Pittsburg joining the hosts, Columbia Academy, Rockwood and Franklin Road Academy.
The tournament will be played entirely at Lookout Valley. There are three games next Thursday beginning at 3 p.m. and six games Friday beginning at 9:30 a.m. The final is scheduled for 3:30 Saturday.