For the four seniors on Lookout Valley's baseball team, Friday evening's high school graduation ceremony was only the second-biggest event of the day.
The Yellow Jackets traveled to last year's Class 1A state champion, East Robertson, and won 13-7 to send their program to the TSAA Spring Fling for the first time since 2008. The sectional victory makes Lookout Valley one of eight qualifiers in the classification for next week's state tournament.
"It's just an unbelievable feeling," Yellow Jackets coach Josh Payne said. "Baseball means a lot to this community, it always has, so this is pretty special for a lot of people.
"We had to rush right back after the game, pulled into the parking lot right before they started announcing the seniors' names, and our kids walked across the stage still in full uniform. They loved it."
The four seniors — Brayden Pruitt, Mason Randolph, Jacob Rollins and Braxton Ryan — all contributed to the win as Lookout Valley wasted no time in taking command, scoring four runs in the first inning and three in the second.
East Robertson rallied for five in the home half of the second and later cut the deficit to one run before the Jackets put the game away with five runs in the sixth.
"To go into a hostile environment like that and play the way we did says a lot about our kids," Payne said. "I wouldn't want to do it any other way. Going there, playing in front of their whole student body and a huge crowd from their community and winning like we did made it that much more special. That was a lot of adversity to have to overcome."
Christian Chandler went 3-for-4 with a home run in the sixth and three RBIs, Jacob Winchester was 3-for-3 with three runs scored, Ryan also drove in three runs and Rollins added an RBI.
Freshman left-hander Eli Pell pitched the last 5 2/3 innings, scattering four hits and striking out nine batters for the win. He entered the game with the bases loaded and one out in the second but limited the damage to one run.
"He was lights out," Payne said. "For a freshman to pitch like that on the road in that environment is nuts. I felt like our guys were ready for the challenge of going up there, and they proved it."
Pigeon Forge 10, Marion County 0: Kevin Fernandez hit two home runs and East Tennessee State University signee Riley Franklin added another for Pigeon Forge in a Class 2A sectional.
Riverdale 4, Walker Valley 2: The Mustangs finished 20-18 as their season came to a close with the road loss in a Class 4A sectional. Landon Franklin had two of Walker Valley's three hits in a game that had just seven hits total. Aiden Gibson scored both runs for the Mustangs, who trailed 3-0 after three innings.
Stewarts Creek 8, Bradley Central 5: The Bears' season ended with a home loss in a Class 4A sectional.
Soddy-Daisy 2, White County 1: A two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the sixth by Taylor Lloyd proved to be the winning hit as the Lady Trojans rallied to advance to the Spring Fling with a Class 3A sectional victory. Ryli Renfro led off the inning with a single and Jenna Sims followed with a bloop base hit. After the runners advanced on a fielder's choice, Lloyd came through up the middle to drive in two. Regan Rowan was the winning pitcher, allowing four hits and striking out 10 batters.
Alcoa 3, Marion County 0: The Lady Tornadoes got all the run support they needed in the first two innings in advancing to the Class 2A state tournament. Cassa Arnold drove in two runs and freshman Gabby Burkhart limited Marion to just two hits. For Marion, Grace Slatton allowed two earned runs in six innings and had one of the Lady Warriors' hits, along with Desiree Nance.
Lincoln County 18, East Hamilton 8: The Lady Hurricanes (27-13) jumped out to a 5-0 lead on the road in the Class 3A sectional, but they could not hold on. East Hamilton's Henley Apps homered and drove in three runs, along with Dani Wasserstrom, who had three hits and scored twice. Reese Knox had a pair of hits and scored twice in the leadoff spot for East Hamilton.
Jo Byrns 12, Sale Creek 1: Sale Creek's season ended with the road loss in a Class 1A sectional.
Nic Hann has been named the next head volleyball coach at Gordon Lee High School, athletic director Thomas Gray announced Friday. Hann most recently coached at Calhoun, where in two years he led the program to consecutive GHSA Class AAAAA postseasons.
"We are extremely excited about having Nic come in and being able to lead our volleyball program," Gray said. "He comes in with a great deal of knowledge for the game and past successes that will help continue the past successes of our volleyball program."
The Rome, Georgia, native graduated from Shorter University and was the head volleyball coach at Coosa for seven years. His teams won three consecutive state championships beginning in 2017 after finishing second in 2016. He inherits a Gordon Lee program coming off back-to-back Class A/AA runner-up finishes.
Compiled by Stephen Hargis, Patrick MacCoon and Lindsey Young. Contact them at email@example.com.