Chattanooga Christian knew it was an improved Signal Mountain team standing between the Chargers and the District 7-AA baseball championship.
The Eagles, after all, had won eight of their last 10 games and swept Grundy County in a best-two-of-three series to get to the final. They even went ahead Wednesday, punching across a run in the first at-bat, but that lead was short-lived.
CCS went up 4-1 in the bottom of the second, added six runs in the fourth and then put the game away, 11-1, with an unearned run in the fifth.
Both teams advance to region games Monday. CCS will be home against Upperman while Signal Mountain travels to Central Magnet in Murfreesboro.
The Chargers' 18th win in a row Wednesday was much more convincing than that of Saturday, when they had to score a run in the top of the seventh to secure their berth in the final.
"We weren't very good -- just good enough," coach Joel Johnson said of the 8-7 Saturday win at Sequatchie County. "We worked all this week on finishing innings and finishing games, and we did that tonight. The guys have been dying to play this game.
"They weren't proud of how we played on Saturday, and they wanted to play really well tonight. We knew if we didn't that they were capable of beating us."
Signal Mountain grabbed the early lead on Jake Carmichael's leadoff single, a sacrifice by Jackson Etter and Garrett Hensley's opposite-field single to right field.
Hensley was the only Signal batter with a multihit game, going 2-for-3.
"Signal's a good hitting team. If you throw that fastball at the belt, they're going to hit it," Johnson said. "Zach (Mercer) learned that in the first inning, and from there we just tried to keep them guessing."
Mercer, who has emerged as the Chargers' No. 1 pitcher, scattered four hits and struck out five. He allowed just three Eagles to get as far as second base in the final four innings.
"He throws strikes. He's a competitor and always has been," Signal coach Josh Gandy said. "You throw strikes and you're going to give your team a chance to win. He did that."
"I didn't do anything different. I was concentrating on doing what I could to help the team," Mercer said. "Pretty much everything was working, although there were a couple of times on my off-speed stuff that I let it slip out of my hand."
He got away with it after getting through the first inning, allowing just two hits the rest of the way.
It helped him settle in when the Chargers put four on the board in the second, and his night got much easier in the fourth, highlighted by Jared Miller's three-run homer.
"That was huge. It got everybody fired up, so you have to give him a lot of credit. I knew when he hit it that it was gone," Mercer said.
Miller went 3-for-3 and Brandon Mason added two hits.
Contact Ward Gossett at email@example.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.