DUNLAP, Tenn. - There were only two plays that separated Grundy County and Signal Mountain in the District 7-AA baseball tournament championship game.
The Eagles manufactured a run in the fourth inning and then got a call from the dugout in the bottom of the seventh that preserved their 1-0 victory over the Yellow Jackets.
"The squeeze play was bit, but it might have been that play in the bottom of the seventh that was the play of the game," Signal coach Bumper Reese said after his team secured the school's first district baseball championship.
With his teammates clinging to the nerve-jangling lead, Grundy's Taten McBee rattled the left-field fence with a solid double. However, thanks to Brixton Reese, a freshman and the coach's son, McBee never got a chance to score.
"He said, 'Dad, he missed first base. You have to appeal.' We did and the umpire called him out," Coach Reese said. "That was big because they're probably going to bunt the guy over to third and then have two chances to get him home."
The other big play in the error-free pitching duel between Grundy's Chandler Knight and Signal's Grant Hensley came in the fourth inning.
Garrett Hensley walked and stole second, and Charlie Trageser beat the throw to first on a third-strike wild pitch, which allowed Hensley to move up another 90 feet. A strikeout followed before Coach Reese asked his No. 5 hitter, catcher Chris Feemster, to lay down a bunt. He did so to perfection, and Hensley, breaking on the pitch, scored with no play at the plate.
"I think that was the second bunt I've gotten down all year long, but my first time up I messed it up so I figured I needed to redeem myself," the junior said.
"Executing the squeeze against an incredibly well-coached team was huge," Reese said. "Garrett [at third] didn't break too early. A lot of runners will break early there, but he didn't give them a chance to yell or give the pitcher a chance to get the pitch up and ruin the bunt opportunity."
The game was a pitcher's showcase. Knight went two outs into the seventh and left the mound with a three-hitter and nine strikeouts. He pitched a no-hitter through four innings. The elder Hensley threw a four-hitter with five strikeouts.
"He threw the game of his life. The whole game was a pitching battle," Grundy coach Chris Feemster said.
"I got lucky with a couple of pitches and the infield made a lot of good plays behind me. It was a team effort," Hensley added.
Both teams advance to regional semifinals Monday. Signal will be at home and Grundy will travel.
Contact Ward Gossett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.