MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Sophomore Ashton Simmons came through in the clutch to help advance Bradley Central to the baseball state final four.
The Bears' No. 9 batter flared a single just over the Independence shortstop, who had the ball bounce out of his glove, to score Tucker Still for the go-ahead run with two outs in the sixth inning.
Known for making flashy plays with his glove at shortstop, Simmons turned into a hero with his bat in Wednesday's 6-3 Class AAA state tournament victory at Oakland High School.
"Sometimes you have to forget the past and go for it. There were nerves, but I always have to give the glory to God," said Simmons, who came into the at-bat hitless at the state tournament. "I was relieved when I saw the ball drop in the outfield grass."
Bradley Central (25-14) will play Riverdale at 3 p.m. EDT Thursday at Oakland and with a win would move on to Friday's state title game.
Meanwhile, Sequatchie County (27-11-1) fought back from the losers bracket to reach the Class AA final four and Baylor (26-6) advanced to Thursday's Division II-AA state championship game.
A day after Riley Black threw a 120-pitch Bradley victory, Dylan Standifer answered his sidekick who caught him. For the second straight day Logan Weeks made a run-saving diving catch.
The Bears have allowed 12 runners to reach in both state tournament wins but have pitched around danger.
"This is the biggest team game of all," said Standifer, who worked around nine hits and three earned runs while he singled twice and scored twice. "Throughout the year we have had several different guys step up big. Everyone has a huge part in this run."
After Independence's Robert Hassell bombed his 20th home run of the season to dead center in the first, another left-handed slugger, Bradley's Black, launched an opposite-field shot. Black drove in two more runs to provide insurance after Simmons' hit with a blooper of his own to center field. Still also had a multi-hit day for the Bears.
Ryan Giovengo singled in two runs to build a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the third. Standifer just moments before got through the top half of the inning on just two pitches. An intentional walk to Hassell was followed by a lineout to right field and a popup double play that caught Hassell trying to steal second.
The Bears intentionally walked Hassell three times. The Eagles center fielder also stole three bases.
"Coach (Matt) Day's pitch calling was a huge factor, along with Coach (Tanner) Thompson's scouting," Bradley head coach Travis Adams said. "Our entire coaching staff is all hands on deck, and the guys are bought in. We try to stay one pitch, inning and game at a time."
» Baylor 3, Christian Brothers 0: The Red Raiders stand just one win away from a repeat state title.
Sophomore Danny Corona continued his scorching start to the tournament with three more hits and two of the three runs scored in the game at Wilson Central High School.
The first five hitters for Baylor combined for 11 hits, which included three also for Christian Martin and a two-RBI day from Nick Kurtz. Kurtz has driven in five runs in the state tournament and earned Wednesday's win on the mound.
Senior Greyson Linderman struck out four in three innings to pick up a save.
The Red Raiders will take on Christian Brothers in the state final at 1:30 EDT Thursday at Middle Tennessee State University.
» Sequatchie 6, Haywood 4; Sequatchie 6, Loudon 5: The Indians earned sweet redemption as sophomore Sergio Camp included two strikeouts in a perfect seventh inning to eliminate Loudon, which no-hit them over a dozen innings late Tuesday.
Senior Kollyn Cooper was 4-for-4 with a pair of runs and RBIs.
"Our guys came out and looked as fresh as they ever have," Sequatchie County coach Derrin Easterly said. "They were really pumped about facing Loudon again. The way we got beat last night, they wanted some payback and got it. You could tell by the way they celebrated it really meant a lot to them."
Cooper also helped against Haywood with a drag bunt that set up fourth-inning RBI singles by Bodie Terry and Trevor Ritchie, putting the Dunlap team ahead to stay.
Sequatchie totaled 18 hits in the two wins and will play Forrest at 3 EDT at Smyrna High School.