MURFREESBORO – There was only one way St. George’s Gryphons ace Connor Green was leaving the pitcher’s mound last Thursday.
Green planned to exit the pile of dirt in full celebration underneath a pile of his teammates. His plan and dream came to fruition when he struck out the last Franklin Road Academy Panther batter.
Head Coach Buzz Walthall’s Gryphons were Division II-A State champions with a 5-4 win over FRA.
“There was no chance,” Green said. “They tried to take me out the third and fourth innings because I threw a couple of days ago. I told them, ‘There’s no way I’m coming off the mound.’”
Green said he never felt any fatigue or arm soreness. St. George’s jumping out to a 3-0 first inning lead also helped Green mentality.
“When you have a team that can play defense like we do and swing it like we do, it’s real easy to pitch,” Green said. “You have guys who won’t make errors behind you and guys who will put up runs for you.”
St. George’s discipline at the plate created the rally. The Gryphons first three hitters, Stephen East, Ben Glass and Judson Scott reached on a walk, error and hit-by-pitch.
St. George’s catcher Davis Baty made the Panthers pay with a single driving in two runners. Scott made it 3-0 when Walthall called for a double steal.
With the Panthers trying to get the runner at second, Scott breezed across the plate.
FRA chipped into the St. George’s advantage in the third inning making the score 3-2.
Green gave himself some breathing room in the Gryphons’ half of the third with a sacrifice fly scoring Scott who doubled.
The St. George’s lead grew to 5-2 in the fourth inning when East hit a double to score Jay Luckett. Luckett reached base executing a bunt.
Those runs were needed as FRA score a run in the fifth and sixth inning. The Gryphons entered the seventh inning nursing a one-run lead. St. George’s got the first out when Scott field a laser at first base.
After a ground ball out, Green took care of the last batter with a strikeout looking. And St. George’s history was made.
“We’ve been working so hard all year, throughout the fall,” Green said. “It finally came together. We got hot there at the end. It feels awesome to be a State champion. It feels awesome, first St. George’s State Baseball.
Walthall said the senior group of Jack Glosson, Luckett, Andrew Hyde, Jake Epperson, Curt Bennett, Davis Baty and Green led the team from start to finish.
“Our seniors stepped up and did what they were supposed to do,” he said. “We got it done and I’m proud of them. I’m proud of the way they handled themselves throughout this tournament. They never quit and kept believing they could it done.”
St. George’s entered the State Tournament with a 26-13 record. It took a minute, but the work done by the staff of Erik Schoenrock, Mike Vanaman and Yogi Vanaman kept the players on pace and believing.
“Wow, these guys are unbelievable,” he said of his players. “They worked hard every day. The last three weeks, they felt like they could get this done. They genuinely bought into the things the coaches were doing. I couldn’t have done it without those guys — great job by them.”
Walthall said it was clear to see Green and tag team partner Baty did a great job in the championship game. The seniors combined for eight strikeouts from first out to last.
“That guy is awesome,” Walthall said of Green. “In the beginning, we didn’t want to start him. Maybe use him in some relief later. We got into the play-in situation.
“He and our catcher Davis said they wanted to be the battery their senior year going out giving us a chance to win,” he concluded. “They did. They brought it home.”