LEBANON, Tenn. - In the end the game was decided from John Hennen's rear end.
McCallie's senior shortstop stopped Christian Brothers scoring threats in the final two innings by starting double plays from the seat of his pants, helping the Blue Tornado knock off the defending Division II-AA baseball state champions 3-2 at Wilson Central High School.
After Christian Brothers had struck for two runs to cut the McCallie lead to one, Hennen began the game's first double play from his back, tossing the ball toward second after making an off-balance stop. He then topped his own defensive gem in the seventh, first by stopping a line drive that looked destined to make it up the middle for a base hit. Turning from a seated position, he fired a strike to second that was turned into a game-ending double play.
"Those were two really nice plays by Hennen," McCallie coach Greg Payne said. "That last stop was just a terrific play. Big time.
"To win that first game of a tournament is just so big. You don't want to have to fight your way out of the losers bracket, because that's a whole extra game you have to play and you wind up using up all of your pitching there. We got a lot of nice plays all over today."
It started with Ellitt Dockery on the mound, as the senior allowed just four hits in six innings to the nation's 14th-ranked team according to Baseball America. After walking the first two batters of the seventh, Dockery gave way to Tyler Payne, who recorded a quick strikeout before coaxing Breck Ruddick into the game-ending double play for the save.
McCallie will play crosstown rival Baylor today at 1:30 with a spot in the championship series on the line.
Burnett doubled to start the McCallie fourth and later scored on a fielder's choice off the bat of Drew Vaughn. Spencer Morgan led off the fifth with a single and scored on Hennen's one-out triple. Hennen scored on Burnett's sacrifice fly.
"I got a little nervous in the last couple of innings," Hennen said. "Fortunately I was able to make a couple of stops and help us get out of those innings. Elliott pitched a great game, and to start the tournament by beating the defending champs is a huge win and a good way to get our confidence going."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293.