Playing in the Tribe Classic at TVA Credit Union Ballpark, the Hilltoppers suffered a 5-3 loss to Knox Karns. But the day was highlighted by the 1998 state championship team with head coach Bernie Young, his assistants and former players invited back to the park for a 20-year reunion. It came at the end of a week when this year’s Hilltoppers wrapped up the Big Seven Conference regular-season championship and recorded a milestone 1,500th win in program history.
“To see those guys come together today for a 20-year reunion, that was unbelievable,” current Science Hill coach Ryan Edwards said. “I’m so thankful of coach (Andy) Wallen, coach (Keith) Turner and their efforts to get that together and provide a special day for them. Coach Young, what a great guy. They were a big part of that 1,500 number that we got to be a small part of today.”
As Edwards alluded to, Andy Wallen was the driving force behind the reunion. He was an assistant on that ’98 team and an assistant on the current team, which he feels is a special group in its own right.
“Today was so much about those guys getting together,” Wallen said. “I just wanted to make a connection between that ’98 team and this team. Everyone from that ’98 team I talked to about us getting together, they were all excited about it. Once they got here, I didn’t realize how special it would be until they saw each other. It was a lot of fun.”
It turned out to be quite an emotional experience for Wallen to see those he spent so many hours with — on the field, on bus rides and celebrating more big moments than lamenting tough losses.
“The way the festivities played out and to see the differences 20 years make in people’s lives, that was so very emotional,” Wallen said. “The time we shared back then and to be able to revisit that for a day, it was pretty special.”
Loss to Karns
The Hilltoppers (23-6) fell behind 4-0 before putting a run on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth inning against the Beavers (20-6).
Chance Hall hit a triple and came home on a wild pitch.
Kolten Keller doubled the next inning and then scored on a bases-loaded walk by Hall for the second run in the fifth inning. The final run came in the bottom of the sixth with Ben Grable’s RBI single to right field scoring Caleb Marmo.
Keller went 3 for 3 with the double to lead the Hilltoppers, while Marmo batted 2 for 2. Cade McCoy also doubled, but the Hilltoppers left eight runners on base, including runners on third base in the second, third and fifth innings.
Quinn Boyle suffered the loss after giving up seven hits and four runs over three innings. Josh Francisco pitched for 3 2/3 innings, and Hall got the final out.
Looking at the big picture
Ryder Green and Tyler Hartless each had two hits as the Beavers matched Science Hill with nine hits overall. Edwards was frustrated with the loss, but he quickly put things in perspective with this year’s team already achieving one championship in its own right.
“When you lose, sometimes that’s all you think about, but we’ve had a good regular season to this point,” Edwards said. “I’m not even from around here, but I got emotional out there and a tear in my eye. I thought about how it’s humbling to be a part of Science Hill baseball. I’m very thankful to coach this team, and I love these kids. They’re always working hard to get better and they love each other. We are accomplishing our main goals to love each other, love the game of baseball and be a team.”