It was a tough early part of the baseball season for Franklin Road Academy.
The team was dealing with the loss of longtime head coach George Weicker, who died in February, and first-year head coach Jon Wilson’s squad started the 2016 campaign 8-9.
Things changed drastically from that point. The Panthers went 17-2 the rest of the way, including a sweep through the Division II-A state tournament to capture the school’s fourth state title.
Peyton Warren belted a triple and two doubles and Walker Palmerton allowed just one run over 5 1/3 innings as FRA knocked off Harding Academy 8-1 Thursday in the championship contest at MTSU.
“I don’t know if it’s sunk in completely,” said Wilson, whose team finished 25-11. “Coming into the season we were dealing the loss of Coach Weicker. I had big shoes to fill. It’s amazing what this team accomplished. It’s a testament to what (Weicker) instilled in them. I can’t take much of the credit.”
Warren drove in three runs with the three hits to pace the FRA offense. Kenny Cooper had a pair of hits and a run scored and RBI each while Christian Drake scored three times in the triumph.
FRA (25-11) exploded for five runs in the first inning and never looked back. That was plenty of run support for Palmerton, who threw 40 of his 63 pitches for strikes. Warren retired the five batters he faced to close the game.
Casey Harford was the loser for Harding, giving up eight hits and five runs – all earned – in 3 2/3 innings.
FRA also won state titles in 1984, 1988, and 2000, the last two of which were won under Weicker’s direction.
“The last month we really turned it on,” Wilson said. “We were 8-9, but we came together at that point. We had some great senior leadership. It was a real gutsy performance by the guys.”