Trucking along to a 10-4 victory over Tennessee High on Thursday night, the Hilltoppers earned the district title at J. Fred Johnson Stadium and a home game against Jefferson County in next Monday's Region 1-AAA semifinals.
Chance Hall won the tournament’s most valuable player award after a night when he was 2-for-3 at the plate with three RBIs, including a solo home run in the third inning to put the Hilltoppers (32-7) ahead by one run. He also closed out the game, coming in the sixth inning with runners on first and second base and no outs and getting out of the jam.
"I couldn't have written it any better," Hall said. "I really wanted it and our team really wanted it, so we went out and earned it."
They sure did as the Vikings (30-10) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning on C.J. Hess' two-run home run. Starting pitcher Quinn Boyle prevented another run from scoring by tagging Gavin Cross at home plate.
Science Hill quickly answered in the bottom half of the inning with RBI singles by David Bryant and Hall.
Josh Francisco then took over pitching duties for the next four innings, giving up just three hits and one run on a solo shot by Hess. Then, Hall finished out the game, giving up a run on an RBI single to Jason Vanhoy when the game was clearly out of reach.
Science Hill coach Ryan Edwards had praise for how his team responded after suffering a 3-2 loss to the Vikings the night before, which was the 100th win at Tennessee High for their coach Preston Roberts.
"I told our kids it would be a tough battle and Tennessee High would be ready to play," Edwards said. "I knew it would be a tough game, but we earned it. Having to beat Tennessee High two out of three games is tough. Francisco gave us seven solid innings in the tournament with only one run. And then Chance, to come in there and do what he did with runners on and nobody out, both of those guys shut the door against a good lineup."
Hall's solo shot put Science Hill up 3-2 on Thursday. The momentum clearly swung to the Hilltoppers' favor three batters later when Zach Copenhaver hit a two-run triple on a 3-2 count to score Kolton Keller and Matthew Levi, putting Science Hill up by three runs.
"It was a full count and I was just trying to put the ball in play," Copenhaver said. "I just wanted to get something through to score a run and it ended up getting in the gap and being a really big hit for us. We just respond well when someone has success at the plate. It's like throwing kerosene on the fire and taking it to the next level."
Keller had an RBI single in the fifth. An inning later, Cade McCoy produced a two-run single to score Caleb Marmo and Ben Edwards. Lead-off man Ben Grable, who reached on a bunt single up the third base line, scored off a wild pitch and Hall had a sacrifice fly to plate McCoy for his third RBI.
Every player in the Science Hill starting lineup reached base. McCoy ended 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored, while Keller also ended 2-for-4.
Nick Dobbins suffered the loss for the Vikings, giving up four earned runs and six hits in 2 2/3 innings. Bodhi Baker threw another 2 2/3 innings before Tanner Booker recorded the final two outs.
Tennessee High will now have to go on the road to face District 2-AAA champion Seymour in its Region 1-AAA semifinal.
As for Science Hill, there was a feeling of elation after sweeping Big Seven Conference and District 1-AAA championships.
"We've been working hard since early fall for this," Hall said. "I couldn't be happier for our team."