COLUMBIA — Lawrence County scored four runs in each of the first, second and seventh innings to earn a 12-2 win at Columbia Central on Tuesday.
Scheduled for an early 3:30 p.m. first pitch, the game beat the incoming wet weather, but the Wildcats dampened Columbia’s mood almost immediately after stepping onto the field.
Colton Moore got off to a hot start with a double in the first to bring home Luke Mattox. Luke Nichols and Avery Tidwell each had RBI singles as well in the early going.
The second inning must have felt like deja vu all over again for Columbia Central pitcher Drew Sharp.
Moore doubled again for another RBI in the second. He would finish the day 3-for-5 with three RBIs. Nichols and Tidwell added RBI singles as well in the inning.
“To be able to get on them early right there, we were able to ride that momentum for a while,” Lawrence County coach Brad White said. “We didn’t really capitalize after that, but it was enough.”
Sam Pate came on in relief of Sharp, who surrendered just four earned runs of the eight that crossed the plate in the first two innings. Pate did shut down the Wildcats for much of the contest after coming in to start the third inning.
Pate pitched three shutout innings before another big inning from Lawrence County put the game away.
For the Wildcats, Zackery Graves was phenomenal on the bump. He went six innings and scattered eight hits, giving up just two earned runs and striking out seven Lions hitters.
“He was really kind of laboring at the end, but we didn’t help him much either,” White said. “We kicked the ball around some, but he held his composure well and he kept doing his job.”
White’s bunch committed two errors in the game, while Columbia had four. White said some of that could be due to moving guys around in the field and in the lineup.
“I didn’t realize how important scrimmages were, but until you put everybody together and see how it meshes, it’s tough,” he said. “I’ll play a different lineup tomorrow.
“We’re basically doing our preseason during the season and hoping it doesn’t come back to bite us.”
Lincoln English led Columbia at the dish, going 2-for-3 and scoring both of the Lions’ runs.
NASHVILLE — Each time Columbia Academy found success on offense Monday night, Christ Presbyterian Academy had an answer.
Cade Reynolds provided the hosts’ biggest — and most decisive — response when he launched a two-strike pitch over the right-center wall and lifted his team to a 7-4 win over the Bulldogs in Division II-A District 3 play.
Reynolds’ three-run home run in the fifth inning rallied the Lions from a 4-2 deficit.
“The pitch was a low and away changeup, and he went (opposite field) with it,” Columbia Academy coach Richie Estep said. “Sometimes you just have to tip your cap; that guy can hit.”
University of Tennessee signee Kavares Tears took the loss, giving up five runs on just two hits but walking seven Lions. He also struck out eight hitters in the game.
Both hits surrendered by the lefthander were home runs.
“I was still trying to find the zone in the third, fourth and fifth innings,” Tears said. “Sometimes as the game goes on, you’ll get the corners, but it really felt like if it wasn’t right down the middle, I wasn’t getting it.”
Following his team’s first loss of the season, Estep echoed his senior leader’s comments.
“CPA is a really good hitting team. They already make you throw another pitch by fouling off pitches. They’re probably the best team in the state at that,” Estep said. “So when you’re hitting your spots and not getting the call and you have to throw another pitch, it takes the fight out of you.”
The Bulldogs (7-1, 4-1) struck out looking seven times in the game, something Estep’s team is not known for doing, and prompted several comments from the Columbia Academy dugout.
“That pitch they were getting is unhittable,” he said. “When nobody is swinging at that pitch, it’s not a strike. If both sides were getting called and rung up, that’s fine.
“I just felt like the kids didn’t decide the game tonight.”
The Bulldogs took a 2-1 lead in the third when Tanner Ham got a two-out single and Landon Prentice walked. Tears was hit by a 1-1 pitch following a trip to the mound by CPA catcher Cade Law. Max Ballard promptly doubled to score Ham and Prentice.
CPA (6-3-1, 3-0) tied the game on a J.J. Williams homer in the fourth before Columbia Academy regained the lead in the fifth with another two-out rally.
Damon Toombs singled home Prentice and Tears with a ground ball through the right side of the infield on a full count. A pair of walks loaded the bases for the Bulldogs, but the guests couldn’t cash them in.
CPA added a pair of insurance runs in the sixth to seal the Division II-A District 3 win.
“CPA got us, and they’re very good. We feel like we outplayed them tonight, it just didn’t say it on the scoreboard,” Estep said.
The two teams are set to meet at Columbia Academy on Tuesday with the varsity game tentatively scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m., but could be moved to earlier in the day as weather dictates, Estep said.
HAMPSHIRE – Staked to a two-run lead, Josh Martin had all the support he needed before he even threw a pitch Monday.
The Santa Fe senior didn’t give back the dozen extra runs his offense provided him, though, in a 14-1, five-inning District 10-A victory at Hampshire.
“Going in, Coach (Rip Baxter) told us to be the aggressor – not to wait till they threw the first punch, for us to throw the first punch,” Martin said. “We wanted to get the bats going and give me a cushion.
“We swung the bats, one through nine.”
The Wildcats (4-1-1, 1-0 10-A) clawed Hampshire’s Blake Morrow and Errette Delk for 12 hits, with senior third baseman Peyton Wilhelm’s 3-for-4, four-RBI effort leading the way offensively. Martin and classmate Logan Wilkins each added a pair of hits, driving in two runs apiece with three doubles between them, and junior Ryan Seltz went 2-for-3 with two runs scored out of the No. 9 spot in the batting order.
“Our goal is to score one (run) an inning, but we hope to play for the big inning,” Baxter said after the visitors added five runs in the second – keyed by a Colton Steward two-run base hit – and six in the third as Martin drove in a couple.
“We had a couple of big innings in the second and third, scored a few there. That’s probably the best game we’ve had hitting.”
Martin, meanwhile, kept the Hawks (1-5, 0-1) in check offensively – striking out nine and allowing just two hits. Hampshire cut into the deficit in the bottom of the first, as Delk reached on an error and scored on one, but the hosts didn’t pick up their first hit until Delk’s two-out triple in the fourth. Jesse Caddy singled with one out in the fifth, but Santa Fe followed with a game-ending double play.
“Josh has pitched here since he was a freshman,” Baxter said. “That’s probably the best game he’s had.”
Though Hampshire coach Blake Rochelle was concerned with his team’s performance at the plate, he was more bothered by the Hawks’ five errors.
“We put the ball in play,” he said. “We quit hitting. We were looking for the perfect pitch and got too picky, but it’s still early. Our hitting will come along.
“Errors are what hurt us. But we live to fight another day. We’ll wash this one out and get ready for (Tuesday).”
The two teams are scheduled to play Tuesday at Santa Fe.
Santa Fe 14, Hampshire 1 (5 inn.)
S 256 01 – 14 12 2 H 100 00 – 1 2 5
Josh Martin and Colton Steward. Blake Morrow, Errette Delk (3) and Jed Page. W: Martin. L: Morrow.
MT. PLEASANT — Having a field named in his honor was the furthest thing from Eddie Bassham’s mind when he accepted the baseball coaching assignment at his alma mater, Mt. Pleasant High School, in 1976.
He was just glad to be out of the local box factory.
But just like he grinded his way to a college degree that allowed him to teach and coach, Bassham grinded through a career that included more than 600 victories, three state tournament championship game appearances – and, as of Saturday, a field he helped construct that will bear his name.
“So many times, people sadly don’t get their recognition till they die,” said Wayne Lindsey, a member of the Tigers’ 1998 Class A runner-up squad and current member of the Maury County Board of Education. “We all hope we have Coach around for a long time, but probably what I’m most proud of is that it was able to happen where he gets to enjoy it with his kids and his family.
“Anybody that’s spent any time around here, there was never any question that if a name got stuck on that field, there was no debate what name it needed to be. There’s nobody more deserving.”
While the honor was well earned, a sticking point was Bassham continuing to earn it.
A Maury County Schools guideline for naming facilities for individuals requires that they be retired for a minimum of five years. Bassham is currently retired for the third time, replaced last summer by Kennedy Mathis after previously vacating the Mt. Pleasant helm in 2004 and 2015 – and subsequently returning.
“The last time they called (in March 2019), my wife kinda questioned my mentality,” the 70-year-old Bassham recalled recently. “But I saw the situation they were in. I knew, some of the kids that were playing, their fathers played for me. So I said I’d go over and do what I could to help ’em out.
“It makes you realize just how old you’ve gotten, but it’s an honor and a joy to be able to do that. I still have a good relationship with all those guys. A few of them came and helped during those two years. Their kids were there. It was good to be able to do that.”
Staying close to the game he grew up playing and loving drove him to re-enter the classroom once he took a hiatus after his high school graduation.
“I graduated from Hay Long (the predecessor to Mt. Pleasant) in 1968,” he said. “I had the opportunity to play ball out of high school, but I turned it down and took a job working at the box factory, Ohio Valley. After two or three years, I became a machine operator and they put me on evenings. I went in one night and told (wife) Lynn I wasn’t going to do this all my life, I was going back to school and go to coaching.
“I went out to Columbia State. I’ll never forget it. I talked to Coach (Dave) Hall and Coach (John) Painter, and as I went out the door, Coach Hall said ‘he’ll never make it’. I was already married, working 40 hours a week. But that kinda pushed me or helped me – ‘yes, I am going to make it’. It kinda helped me carry through because it got rough at times, working till midnight and getting up at 5:30 or so in the morning, especially when I got to driving over to Murfreesboro, still working those eight-hour shifts as well.
“But I toughed it out and I made it, and I’m glad I did. I was blessed with the opportunity – Coach (Billy Joe) McHaffey was leaving that year, and I went over and talked to Mr. (Jack) Lightfoot, the principal at the time, and he hired me right out of college. I finished up college and started here that same year.”
Over the next 30 years, Bassham put together a program that often found itself among the best in the state, advancing to the Class A state finals in 1989, 1998 and 2004.
“We had some really good runs those years – other years as well, but those years especially,” he said. “We had some good pitching, some overall good teams. Ezell-Harding in ’89, Goodpasture in ’04, those teams could beat anybody. They were really good baseball teams.
“Now, Coalfield in ’98, we felt that was the year we had a really good chance of winning it. … I think that year we really had the best team in it. It just didn’t fall for us.”
Goodpasture was coached by former Columbia Academy standout and current Bulldogs coach Richie Estep.
“I remember that ’04 year; they were (38-2-1), we were like 40-5. We knew it was going to be a showdown,” he said.
“I’m thrilled that they’re doing that. He put in many years there, he’s worked very hard. He deserves every bit of (the recognition).”
The field that will bear Bassham’s name isn’t the one where he spent the largest part of his career. Prior to the construction of the current on-field facility, the Tigers played their games at the city park – much to the inconvenience of the home team and that of the nearby residents.
“That field was kind of small. We had some (drainage) problems. We got to banging so many houses over there, the city got complaints. The field had gotten old, the lights,” he said. “There were a number of factors. We decided we needed our own facility.”
Bassham acknowledged the efforts of a number of individuals and businesses that were instrumental in bringing the new field to fruition by 2002 – including Bob Murray, Gene Sullivan, Wayne Shearer, Mack Emmitt, Tomlin Construction, Bill Lovell Electric and others.
“I know for two years solid we came over every weekend,” he said. “We’d plan the project for the day, the ladies would provide food and we’d stay all day on Saturday and some would come back on Sunday. We didn’t hire any companies or anybody; with the city itself, with the community, it all came together as it did.
“We’re certainly proud of it.”
Meanwhile, the community – and his family — is proud of him. In fact, there will be three generations of Basshams on the field Saturday.
Eagleville, the Tigers’ opponent for Saturday’s 3 p.m. game, is coached by 1995 Mt. Pleasant graduate Brandon Bassham. His son, Keydon, is a junior outfielder/pitcher for the Eagles.
Preceding the game, a 1 p.m. reception will take place in the school cafeteria. The dedication ceremony is set for 2:30 p.m. on the field. All former players will be admitted for free.
“To be a part of it, having my team come over and play that day, with my son on the team as well – we get to be here as a family and see that, and I’m very grateful and appreciative,” Brandon said. “I’m glad we can play a part in it.
“It’s well deserved – over (600) wins, three state runner-up finishes in 15 years speak for themselves. Working on the field. Just the mentor he is. When I’m with him, players from way back come up and speak to him. He may not know the name, but he knows the face and when they played. You’re talking about over 40 years ago for some of those guys. That just speaks for who he is.
“That’s what makes me the most proud.”
Listen to an interview with Eagleville coach Brandon Bassham:
Kavares Tears and Luke Gill each struggled early Monday.
But while Columbia Academy’s Tears worked out of first-inning trouble against visiting Grace Christian, the Bulldogs took advantage of Gill’s three walks and a wild pitch along with a pair of Lion errors – plating three runs in their half of the first in an eventual 6-0 Division II-A District 3 victory.
“It felt like he was a little nervous,” CA coach Richie Estep said of Tears, who walked the bases full before getting back-to-back strikeouts to squelch the opening-inning threat. Tears finished with 12 strikeouts, allowing two hits and just the three walks over six shutout innings.
“We knew it’d be competitive. They’re a good team. I’ve been around Brad (Myers, Grace Christian coach) for years. They do it the right way. Once (Tears) settled in, that first inning was huge. Their pitcher was tough. He pounded the (strike) zone. We were fortunate to get on him in the first.”
Tears’ early issues didn’t carry over to the plate. After Tanner Ham reached on a Gill two-base throwing error and Landon Prentice drew a walk, his hard-hit grounder was mishandled to load the bases. Walks to Max Ballard and Bryant Beranek each forced in runs, and Tears scored from third on a wild pitch.
“We didn’t make plays,” Myers said. “Against a good team, you’ve got to make plays. Luke threw a good ballgame. If it’s 1-0, who knows what happens?
“We’ve got to put the ball in play. (Tears) made some big pitches in the first, did what he had to do. We didn’t capitalize. I thought Luke was really good when he worked ahead. He got behind in some counts, and we didn’t make some plays.”
In his next at-bat, Tears drove a Gill delivery the other way over the left-field fence to lead off the third – his second home run of the season — and extend the Bulldog advantage to 4-0.
Columbia Academy (5-0, 3-0) picked up two more runs in the bottom of the sixth, as Ham singled through a drawn-in infield to score Beranek and Tyler Stephens.
“That was all set up by the bunt from (pinch-hitter) Cade (Crouthamel),” said the senior shortstop. “With runners at second and third, you’ve just got to put the bat on the ball from there.
“That kinda solidified the game a little.”
Prentice took over mound duties in the top of the seventh, working around a leadoff double with a groundout and a pair of strikeouts to close out the contest.
“Tanner looked bad on two curveballs, then he got one he could handle,” Estep said. “He found a way to get the bat on the ball. Those runs were huge. There’s a huge difference in 4-0 and 6-0.”
Grace Christian fell to 2-4 overall with the loss in its district opener.
Grant Wooldridge added a base hit for Columbia Academy, which finished with three against Gill and reliever Silas Jones.
“We’re fighting for a home game to open the district tournament,” Estep said. “With them, Middle Tennessee Christian, (Christ Presbyterian Academy) and us, with Franklin Road Academy and (Battle Ground Academy), it’s going to be competitive. But you want to be able to play at home.
“His teams do things the right way. Any time you can beat them, it’s a good win.”
The two are scheduled to play again Tuesday at Clyde Pewitt Field in Leipers Fork. Game time is 6:30 p.m.
Columbia Acad. 6, Grace Chr. 0
G 000 000 0 – 0 3 2 C 301 002 x – 6 3 0
Luke Gill, Silas Jones (6) and Blake Barton; Kavares Tears, Landon Prentice (7) and Max Ballard. W: Tears; L: Gill; HR: C – Tears (2)
By the time Providence Christian managed an RBI triple in a two-run third inning Tuesday, Kavares Tears and Columbia Academy were hardly concerned.
The Bulldogs senior had helped stake himself to a sizeable lead with a single, a double, a three-run home run and six RBI in three at-bats, and finished with 10 strikeouts in four innings of work as the hosts slugged their way to a 21-2 five-inning decision to open the season.
Tears, a Tennessee signee, walked twice and struck out looking in the second game of the Division II-A District 3 doubleheader as CA won 24-0, again in five innings.
“It’s been 370 days since the last game we played,” Tears said. “It was pretty fun.”
The two teams were scheduled to play a two-game series beginning Monday in Murfreesboro, but inclement weather forced Tuesday’s twinbill.
“We hated we couldn’t play (Monday),” Columbia Academy coach Richie Estep said. “It’s just good to play anybody. We’re so tired of intrasquad (games), batting practice. Just getting to play was good.”
Providence Christian, in just its third season of TSSAA baseball competition, struggled from the start.
“They’re just starting their program,” Estep said.
Conversely, Tears is one of the state’s top talents. A finalist for the Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association’s Class A Mr. Baseball as a sophomore, he was poised to build on that both on the mound and at the plate last season – before the pandemic curtailed spring sports.
“He’s just a special player,” Estep said. “He’s got every tool, he works at his craft every day and he loves it. He’s very gifted, a very special talent, and we’re lucky he’s on our team. He’s as good as I’ve ever had.”
The Bulldogs are scheduled to play Thursday at Richland and Friday at Hillwood.