If members of the Covington baseball team were having any unpleasant flashbacks from last year's state tournament experience, it didn't show this afternoon at Blackman High School in Murfreesboro.
Playing on the same field as last year when the Chargers went two and out, Covington jumped on Pigeon Forge early, withstood a late rally and moved on in the Class AA state tournament with a 6-3 win.
The team was clearly happy to get the win, but there was no wild celebration. Interim head coach Chris Messer described his team's attitude as "blue collar."
"I think their attitude is one down, two to go," said Messer. "I thought they came out focused. I don't think there was any kind of hangover or anything from last year."
Things got dicey in the top of the seventh.
Pigeon Forge hit back-to-back homers with two outs to trim Covington's once comfortable lead to 6-3 and a walk put the game-tying run on deck. But Christian Delashmit relieved Drake Whitmer, struck out the only batter he faced and Covington (31-7) moved on.
"I thought all our pitchers threw well," Messer said, adding that Whitmer had some tough strike-ball calls. "He had to go over the middle of the plate with us way ahead, but I thought Drake and all the pitchers did exactly what we expected."
The Chargers will take on Elizabethton or Nolensville tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. at Blackman. A win there means somebody will have to beat the Chargers twice on Thursday to keep them out of Friday's title game.
Ty Warmath started on the mound for Covington and pitched very well, striking out six and allowing two hits and two walks over 4.1 innings. Carter Davis pitched 1.2 scoreless innings before Whitmer relieved him in the sixth and ran into trouble.
Warmath was pulled before throwing 75 pitches and would be available to throw again Friday if the Chargers make it that far.
Covington had just five hits, but it was enough.
Brock Lomax singled in Weston Martin and Austin Baskin, both of whom reached on errors, in the first inning. Three more Pigeon Forge errors in the second led to another run and 3-0 Charger lead.
Landon Myers drew a bases-loaded walk in the fourth to make the score 4-0 and Martin drove in the fifth run on a ground ball. An RBI-single by Davis in the sixth made the score 6-0.
"I'd call it a controlled joy," Messer said when asked about his team's mood heading into tomorrow's key game. "I think the guys are just thinking about winning and giving ourselves a chance Friday."