GLADEVILLE — When the stakes are highest, Andrew Franklin is at his best.
Two weeks after pitching the clinching win at Mt. Juliet for the top seed in the District 9-AAA tournament, the senior left-hander was dealing for Wilson Central in a 2-1 win over Beech in the championship game Thursday night.
Franklin allowed an unearned run on five hits and four walks while striking out five.
“I feel the nerves in between innings and before games, but once I get out there and I’m throwing I’m locked in, so I’m ready to go,” said Franklin, who has signed with Lee University for next year.
Not only did Franklin’s arm keep the Buccaneers at bay, his glove was in the right place at the right time as he snared a line drive in self defense, knocking him to the dirt, for the first out of the seventh inning.
“I didn’t see it until it went into my glove, and I’m not sure I saw it then,” Franklin said. “Made the catch, and that’s all that mattered.”
“Andrew Franklin is a competitor,” said Central’s Anthony Ford, the district’s coach of the year. “He kind of drives me crazy because he’ll ahead 0-2 and the next thing you know it’s 3-2, but he somehow finds a way to get it done.”
Central scored both runs in the third inning when Ethan Shelton’s single to center field scored Mason Mobley, who was running on the pitch, all the way from first base. Shelton later scored on a bases-loaded walk to Will Hudson. A base-running error kept more runs from scoring.
Beech scored in the fifth on a play in which the shortstop booted the ball after Ford thought the Buccaneer base-runner interfered with the ball.
Defense was a key to the day on both sides. Beech snared a couple of line drives. Central’s outfield kept a Beech batter to a single after he drove the ball to the wall in the sixth inning. After Franklin’s catch in the seventh and a subsequent Buc single, second baseman Will Hudson caught a liner and threw to Dawson Hamilton (who signed with Jackson State Community College earlier in the day) to double off the runner and end the game.
“We hit some balls hard in the sixth inning that were outs and then we get a little dink hit,” Ford said. “And then they hit three balls on the screws and they’re out. That’s why anybody can compete, no matter how big or small you are, you can compete in this great game.
“Both pitchers threw really well.”
Central’s season came to an abrupt end Monday with a 3-0 loss to visiting Northeast in the Region 5-AAA tournament, ending a 23-11 season.
This is Central’s fourth district tournament championship and the first time the Wildcats won both the regular season and district titles in the same year. Ford, the last remaining coach in place from the school’s 2001 opening, picked up his 300th win Monday vs. Hendersonville and is now sitting on 302.
“That’s a tribute to the kids,” Ford said of the coaching honor. “I’m proud of my kids. I can’t think enough about how hard they competed all year.”
By: Andy Reed