Greenwood Christian Academy’s postseason run ended in Saturday’s Class A baseball regional at Morristown, where it lost 6-0 to defending state champion Shakamak.
Shakamak’s starting pitcher Braxton Yeryar limited the Cougars to two hits and a walk. He retired the first 10 batters and struck out 12.
Despite the disappointment, Greenwood Christian coach Doug Hagist was upbeat, reflecting on the impact of three seniors, Jacob Hagist, Braden Murray and Alex Brown, on the four-year-old varsity program. All three have started every game of their careers, including back-to-back sectional titles and Saturday’s 2-1 regional semifinal win against Lutheran.
“We started with just a group of guys who wanted to play, and those three were kind of the catalyst of it,” said Hagist, whose team finished 17-10. “They went out and talked other people into playing that first year.
““They started it, put in a lot of work and stuck it out in some years when we had some people who were not sure what a fly ball was, let alone having a team capable of accomplishing what we have done now.”
Murray, a pitcher and infielder, recalled the program’s humble beginnings.
“When we first started we didn’t have a home field, so we played all 16 games away,” Murray said. “We would practice in barns and warehouse, or just wherever we could find an open field. The second year we started building a field and spent a lot of time on that.
“To see us come together these last two years and win the sectionals, well it’s really been a crazy ride.”
Jacob Hagist, the coach’s son and second baseman, focused on the sense of fraternity among the group.
“It’s just an honor to see how much God has let us grow,” Jacob Hagist said. “These guys are not just teammates. We’re brothers.”
In Saturday’s final, the Lakers touched Greenwood Christian starter Krae Sparks for a run in the bottom of the second inning, when Tanner Yeryer singled in Jake Walters. Tanner Yeryer drove in another run with a single in the fourth. Dylan Collins followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0. A third walk in the inning one batter later chased Sparks, and freshman shortstop Joel Stinnett came in an pitched in relief.
Shakamak broke the game open in the top of the sixth when Braden Scott knocked in two runs with a bases-loaded single that chased Stinnett for Braden Murray. Parker Green followed with another RBI hit to make it 6-0.
Cougars’ first baseman Alex Brown credited Braxton Yeryar with an outstanding effort.
“He got ahead and worked the count well. He mixed up his speeds and had great location,” Brown said. “He’s a great pitcher.”
In the semifinal, Greenwood Christian rode a superb pitching performance from senior Braden Murray to win.
Murray pitched out of trouble in the third inning. Lutheran loaded the bases with a couple of singles and a walk, but the senior righthander retired Austin Klause on a soft liner to first to end the inning.
Lutheran’s Austin Mays led off the top of the fourth with a triple to the right-center field fence and scored on Jake Reid’s fly to deep left. But the Saints didn’t threaten again for the remainder of the game.
Greenwood Christian’s first scoring threat came in the bottom of the fourth. Alex Brown and Murray drew walks, and Murray and courtesy runner Ethan Chupp moved up on a wild pitch, but Owen struck out Nolan Check to end the scoring threat.
But Greenwood Christian rallied in the fifth inning. Jacob Hagist led off with a single and Bryce Walters drew a walk. After a good sacrifice bunt from Daniel Hale moved the runners over, Nathan Weems tied the game with an RBI single. Brown then followed with a single to left field to put the Cougars up 2-1. Joel Stinnett just missed making it an even bigger inning when his line drive to left was caught.
Murray retired the final 12 batters he faced, scattering six hits for the game and walking just one while striking out five Lutheran batters.