STATE TOURNAMENT BOUND: Bees Defeat East Hamilton To Clinch Spot In Class 3A State Tournament

by Rusty Ellis

The reigning Class 3A State Champion Upperman Bees will have the opportunity to defend their title next week in Murfreesboro, as they clinched their spot in the state tournament with their 8-2 win over East Hamilton on Thursday night.

It didn’t take long for the Bee bats to wake up after a near-three-and-a-half hour rain delay, as an Eli Huddleston RBI double opened the scoring in the bottom of the first.

Julian Llano added on with an RBI single of his own before the Bees score two more runs on a wild pitch to make the score 4-0 heading into the second.

After being held off the board for an inning, Ty Stanton added onto the lead with an RBI double in the third to push the lead to 5-0 for starting pitcher Braden Williams.

Huddleston drove in his second run of the game in the fourth inning on a sacrifice fly, and though East finally got to Williams in the fifth and sixth innings for their two runs, the Bees slammed the door shut with two more runs in the bottom of the sixth.

Caden Shanks scorched a triple into the right-field corner, and then scored on an errant throw to third on the same play. Two batters later, Tyler Jared drove in Huddleston for the final run of the game, as the Bees cruised to an 8-2 victory and clinched their spot in the Class 3A State Tournament.

Williams finished with a complete-game effort, striking out eight and allowing just the two runs in the win for head coach Wes Shanks, who was elated in the victory despite the lengthy delay to start the night.

“It’s 11:41 and you win a game to get to state, we’re excited,” Shanks said. “What we accomplished last year was amazing, but this is a whole new journey. This is a new chapter in a new book that we’ve been writing, and it’s had its ups and downs…we came out and everything was working well. It just gave us a sense of comfort once we got things rolling.”

Upperman also took a lead in Wednesday’s 3-1 defeat in game two, so while Shanks emphasized getting off to a good start, he knew that also meant preserving the lead once they had it.

“These guys have adapted to whatever the situation is all year,” Shanks said. “They realized that an early start leads to success…what helped was us getting this big lead and then shutting them down. That built our momentum, and Braden Williams was a part of that. He was great on the bump, and those three double-plays are a pitcher’s best friend.”

There’s plenty to do before the Bees take the field in the State Tournament on Tuesday, but Shanks knows he and his team are going to enjoy every moment of the journey, regardless of where it takes them.

“It’s going to be fun, Lincoln County clinched so there’s two teams from 4-3A that’s going to be at there,” Shanks said. “We’ve got to get the hotels and get everything lined up. We’re in the last week of school and we’ve got graduation tomorrow…the quick end to the conversation there in the huddle was ‘we’re not done yet.'”