MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — The scariest aspect of Baylor's baseball program is not the level of talent that exists up and down the lineup.
Although the Red Raiders have eight players who have either signed or committed to college programs, by far the point that should make every other team in their classification shudder is that no Baylor senior set foot on the field until the seventh inning of Thursday's Division II-AA championship game.
By that time, Baylor's youth brigade had built a comfortable lead on the way to a 4-2 win over Christian Brothers for the program's second straight state title.
"Last year we just got on a roll and kind of rode the momentum like a roller coaster," co-head coach Mike Kinney said. "This year, with so many young guys and kids who were new to our program, it was more work putting together a plan. That made this whole thing more difficult, but it also made winning it again more satisfying."
It speaks volumes about that level of talent that Colin Ahearn, a Mr. Baseball finalist who has committed to Tennessee, did not step on the mound to pitch until the third game of the state tournament.
Ahearn, a junior, did just what Baylor's two sophomore starting pitchers did by keeping the opposing bats silent for much of the game. The left-hander scattered five hits, allowing one run and striking out 10 batters.
The five pitchers Baylor used during its three-game run at state had more strikeouts (26) than hits allowed (17) over 19 innings. That included a 17-inning scoreless streak.
"We've done a good job all year of just focusing, and today we knew that one win would make us state champions," said Ahearn, who also went 2-for-3 with an RBI. "I was getting a little tired in the sixth but I just kept telling myself I had to push through for my teammates, and then I trusted them to pick me up and finish it off in the seventh."
Senior Gage Johnson came on in the seventh and allowed one run but also struck out two of the three batters he faced, including the final one.
Baylor (27-6) got on the board in the third inning when its first two batters walked then advanced on an error before Christian Martin lifted a sacrifice fly to left. Ahearn helped his cause in the fifth with a bases-loaded single past the second baseman to score one run, and junior Taylor Shahan followed with a two-run single for a 4-0 cushion.
"Getting those three runs in the fifth was a pretty big confidence boost for us," said Shahan, who went 2-for-3. "It's pretty crazy when you think about the pitching depth we've got and how many young guys we have in our lineup. With our pitching, it's kind of easy to relax and enjoy watching them sometimes."