MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Going up against Farragut's top ace, who was saved all week just for the state final, Bradley Central led 3-2 in the top of the third inning of that Class AAA baseball championship game Friday.
However, the Bears' remarkable run to Reese Smith Jr. Field fell short from there as Farragut junior Ryan Hagenow struck out 10 of their last 15 batters in a 7-3 victory for the Admirals.
Losing to a 42-win national powerhouse that won its 10th state championship was nothing to hang heads about for a group who began the season 1-4.
"This run will be one we never forget," Bradley four-year starter and Lee University signee Dylan Standifer said. "I know it hurts, but second place is still pretty awesome because there are 112 teams in triple-A overall. We knew we had the talent, mindset and coaches to do this."
Twenty-five years after its lone baseball state championship, Bradley Central (25-15) proved its worth with solid defense, smart baserunning, timely hitting and strong pitching. The Bears made just two errors in 27 innings of the state tournament and made their opponents pay dearly for mistakes, especially in two one-run victories over Riverdale.
"Our guys simplified the game," 12th-year Bradley coach Travis Adams said. "You lose in the championship game and it sucks, but you can't take away from what this week will mean to our guys for the rest of their lives. They left a strong legacy to be proud of."
Down 2-0 after the first inning for the second day in a row, Bradley fought back with a rip to center field from Jake Thompson, a seeing-eye single by Ryan Giovengo and a bunt hit from Tucker Still to begin the second. The Bears tied the score when Farragut's catcher airmailed a throw to third base after a force-out at home.
Hustling baserunning by Standifer in the third got him from first to third on an opposite-field single by Caden Sherlin, and an RBI groundout by Thompson provided a short-lived lead.
The Admirals (42-3) struck for two runs in the third and again in the fifth, when Ryan McCarthy struck a two-out single to right to build a commanding 6-3 lead.
Sixth-inning magic was not in the air this time for the Bears, as it had been in their three state-tournament wins.
After being a little rattled early, Hagenow was electric late. The big righty overflowed with emotions after striking out the final four batters.
Farragut won 36 of its final 37 games.
"For our guys to get past the substate game and then have the run we had here is a big step for the program," Adams said. "I am so proud of this group for what they did. We lost the first game of the season to Soddy-Daisy, and to be one of the last two standing says a whole lot."