The best story in District 7-AAA baseball during the first month of the high school season doesn’t come from Murfreesboro.
It’s north of the ‘Boro in what may be deemed an unlikely spot to many.
Yes, the best storyline in Rutherford County — and perhaps all of Middle Tennessee — is located at La Vergne High School, where the Wolverines are off to their best start in more than a decade.
Eleven years after La Vergne won the 2002 Class AAA state championship under the guidance of former La Vergne coach Craig Reavis and the arm of Matt Scott, the Wolverines are an early contender to advance in the postseason — something they haven’t done in more than 10 seasons.
“I think we just got so sick of losing,” La Vergne senior Matt Lyons said. “It just got sickening to us. It’s so much different this year.”
Coincidentally, this year’s La Vergne team is coached by Dean Darnall, who played baseball with Reavis at Middle Tennessee State University.
La Vergne (15-2 overall, 4-2 in 7-AAA) opens a three-game series with District 7-AAA leader Riverdale (13-7, 5-1) at 6 p.m. today at Riverdale’s Jones Field. It could be a make or break series for either team’s chances of winning the regular-season title.
“There is still a lot of baseball left to be played,” Darnall said. “Being in the mix, and we’re competing is nice. But we still have nine district games.
“We face a tough Riverdale team with the arms they’ve got. We’re not looking to finish in the middle of the pack.”
The Wolverines are tied for second in District 7-AAA with Oakland (17-4, 4-2). However, the Wolverines defeated the Patriots 2-1 in their three-game series and own the tiebreaker.
“This is a good position, I’m not going to lie,” said La Vergne senior center fielder Dustin Bills. “We just play. We aren’t going to look ahead.”
The pitching duo of seniors Chase Burkett and Lyons has been dominant for the Wolverines thus far. Burkett (4-0) has a 0.53 ERA in 26 1/3 innings pitched. He has struck out 25 batters and walked one. He’s given up just 10 hits. Lyons (4-0) hasn’t allowed a run in 24 innings. He has struck out 19 and hasn’t allowed a walk. He’s given up 15 hits.
Burkett will likely face Vanderbilt commit Collin Snider (1-2) today. Memphis signee Trevor Sutton (3-0) will likely face Lyons on Wednesday. Brady Puckett will face La Vergne’s Chris Johnson on Thursday in the final game of the series.
“We’re going to get to see two big-time college arms,” Darnall said. “And our (top two pitchers) have pitched very well for us. It’s going to be a fun three days.
“The district games are the most fun days of baseball.”
Lyons, Guner Reynolds and Mario Diaz all are hitting .400 or better this season prior to Monday’s non-district game with Lebanon. Reynolds leads the team with a .462 average and 19 RBIs. Lyons and Diaz both are hitting .400. Lyons also has 17 RBIs and Diaz has 10.
La Vergne’s roster is full of seniors this season that have battled losses and disappointment. This year, the Wolverines aren’t trying to prove anything. They just want to win — for themselves.
“What we’re doing big this year is just doing it for ourselves,” said Bills, who is hitting .375 for the Wolverines with eight doubles. “We’re not doing it for other people to see it. We just want to do it for us.”
La Vergne has won two of three games against Oakland and Siegel to open 7-AAA play. These days, those few losses leave perhaps a more lasting feeling on the Wolverines than the many wins.
“(The loss to Siegel) hurt pretty bad,” Bills said. “In the past, losses hurt. But it’s different now. It definitely hurts more now because we’re having a winning season. We’re trying to keep it rolling. It did hurt really bad, because we really wanted to keep it going.”