HENDERSONVILLE – Senior Garrett Taylor got the offense going.
Junior teammate Mason Hickman never let Montgomery Bell Academy’s bats get started.
That duo helped the Pope John Paul II High baseball team roll to Thursday afternoon’s 5-0 victory over the visiting Big Red in the first game of a three-game series at Servpro Field in the Division II-Class AA state quarterfinals.
The winner of the series will advance to the four-team state tournament.
“There is (pressure),” Taylor said. “We know what we have to do. We’ll do whatever it takes.”
Taylor tripled to centerfield to lead off third inning and scored when junior Ben Brooks singled through the left side of the infield.
That was enough run support for Hickman (5-2), a Vanderbilt University commitment. The right-hander allowed just one hit (a fifth-inning single to senior Carter Lovvorn), issued one base on balls and struck out 10 batters.
“This time of year last year is when (Hickman) started to come on,” PJP II head coach Michael Brown said. “When you can bring your best game this time of year, that’s what you want out of a big-time arm. He brought his best game.”
Taylor added, “We have confidence with (Hickman), and we have confidence with everyone else, just as much with the other two (starting pitchers Dalton Heath and Matt Steidl) who go out there.”
Taylor, senior Ryan Hatten and sophomore Grayson Lang all singled in runs in the four-run fifth inning.
“I’m seeing it big,” Taylor said. “I’m just trying to do everything I can to help my team win.”
Brown added, “He’s not had the year he wanted to have, but (Taylor) hit a home run at Baylor. He had a big double at Ensworth. He’s started to get going here late. That (third-inning triple) was huge. We had to get something to break through.”
The Knights (18-15) – the No. 2 seed in the Division II-Class AA East/Middle Region – swept the regular-season series with MBA (8-23) – the No. 7 seed from the East/Middle Region – by scores of 3-0, 11-5 and 10-1.
Reach Craig Harris at email@example.com or at 615-575-7138. Follow him on Twitter @HarrisGNESports.
MBA 000 000 0 – 0 1 2
PJP II 001 040 x – 5 9 1
Jake Evans, Cole Cross (5), Miller Freeman (6) and Sam Morris; Mason Hickman and Jack Shuttleworth. WP – Hickman (5-2). LP – Evans (1-3). Records: MBA 8-23, PJP II 18-15.