By Maurice Patton
SUMMERTOWN – Grant Burleson’s performance Friday night won’t win him the Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association’s Class A Mr. Baseball honors – finalists were announced Wednesday, with the award to be presented Tuesday.
But the Summertown senior may make some folks think twice about how they voted.
In a must-win sectional contest against visiting Richland, Burleson struck out 10 in a 71-pitch perfect game and hit a fifth-inning two-run home run to break open an eventual 9-0 victory – helping the program continue its run of odd-number-year state tourney appearances.
“I’ve said that we thought he was a Mr. Baseball-type guy, but for him to do it in that type fashion is pretty awesome,” coach – and dad – Jason Burleson said after the game.
“I was definitely worried when we were up 1-0, but I couldn’t be more proud of how we closed it out. If you could draw it up, that’s the way you’d want to.”
Summertown (28-8) scratched out a run in the bottom of the first against Richland left-hander Rob Turner, as Gavin Burleson – the middle of three Burleson brothers – reached on a walk and scored on Grant’s sacrifice fly.
From there, though, neither team got much done offensively over the following three at-bats.
“(Turner) threw against us two years ago here,” Jason Burleson said. “We didn’t hit him until late in that one, so we knew we’d have a tough time. He’s a really good pitcher, kept us off balance. We were lucky to get the one run early that we did get.”
Turner allowed just two hits in 4 1/3 innings while striking out five, before Richland coach Troy Hughes turned to his bullpen.
“Rob’s arm was bothering him coming in,” Hughes said. “He gutted it out. I stayed with him as long as I could, and I made a move, and it’s a move I’d make again.”
Gavin Burleson greeted Richland reliever Sam Edwards with a solo home run on Edwards’ first pitch, and after Drake Blackwood reached on a walk, Grant homered as well to give the hosts a 4-0 advantage.
“I don’t think (Edwards) made bad pitches. They just did a good job being on time. All year (teams) have fouled that off or popped it up. These guys didn’t.”
Summertown — which has reached the state tournament in each odd-numbered year since 2009 — added five runs in the sixth, four on a Blackwood grand slam.
“He’s been struggling,” Jason Burleson said. “He struck out three times against Loretto (in the Region 6-A finals). He’s been taking a lot of pitches. We told him he’s got to swing the bat. That grand slam was huge for him. We hope we can get him going next week.”
The late offense was more than enough for Grant, who admitted he was unaware of his perfect game bid until late in the contest.
“I was sitting (in the dugout) thinking, I don’t think they’ve had anybody on base,” he said. “I don’t think many people knew, other than the coaches.
“It’s a great win. I’m glad we got it done.”
Hughes, meanwhile, said Burleson was better than he’d anticipated.
“He threw several pitches Monday,” the coach said after finishing 23-15. “We were expecting him to pitch, but we weren’t expecting him to be as good as he was. We saw him earlier in the year, and we thought maybe he’d have a few innings on his arm, he may not be as fresh. But he was spectacular.
“We put a lot of balls in play. We battled. But they made plays. It’s just one of those things.”
Summertown 9, Richland 0
R 000 000 0 – 0 0 2
S 100 035 x – 9 5 0
Rob Turner, Sam Edwards (5), Austin Schrengost (5), Aiden Waldron (6) and Landon Griggs. Grant Burleson and Lane Burleson. W: Gt. Burleson. L: Turner. HR: Summertown – Gavin Burleson, Grant Burleson, Drake Blackwood.
Photos by Ric Beu / SM-Tn Sports