DUNLAP, Tenn. — Soon after his masterful start on the baseball diamond, Sequatchie County junior Austin Mitchell was greeted warmly.
As the tall junior right-hander made his way down the hill to support his school's softball team in their region championship battle, he received handshakes and high-fives from every teammate.
Mitchell was Greg Maddux-like, needing only 77 pitches to pitch a complete-game, two-hit shutout of Grundy County in a 3-0 victory that secured the Region 4-AA championship Wednesday. The game lasted just 1 hour and 15 minutes.
"We are like brothers. We are 100% team," said Mitchell, who also padded his lead with an opposite-field double to right to score Trevor Ritchie in the fifth. "We do everything together. I know my guys always have my back."
The winning pitcher — who improved to 8-1 and lowered his season ERA to 1.70 while helping the Indians advance to Friday's home sectional against Signal Mountain — was backed by great defense.
A diving catch in the top of the first inning by left fielder Michael Cooper down the line shut down any early momentum for Grundy County (18-16), as did a successful pickoff move.
Run support was almost immediate as Sequatchie County (24-10-1) used its speed to steal three bases and build a two-run lead in the first. Ritchie drove in Collin Hudson on a sacrifice fly to left.
Hudson had two of his team's five hits and stole a pair of bases.
"Our guys have had a strong mental toughness all season, and they play for each other, too," Sequatchie County coach Derrin Easterly said. "Our kids like to be aggressive, and I give them the green light. It's fun seeing them click and come together."
Mitchell struck out four in the victory as he kept hitters off-balance with his curveball and fastball.
Bodie Terry also had a single and scored a run for the Indians while holding down the middle infield with Hudson.
With a chance to make the program's first appearance in a state tournament in more than 20 years, Sequatchie County will look to keep doing what it has all season in what is expected to be tough battle against Signal Mountain (25-10).
The Eagles lost 7-3 at Loudon in the Region 3-AA final.
"I expect our guys to show up and play loose once again," Easterly said. "It was great to see Austin do what he did today and what we have become accustomed to seeing out of him. I expect another low-scoring fight this Friday."