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Pendleton rallied from an early 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 win over Andrew Jackson to capture the Class AA Upper State District IV baseball championship Wednesday at the Bulldogs’ field.
The Vols, needing two wins to take the district crown, broke on top 2-0 as junior Tripp Rollings doubled and Chandler Neal followed with a two-run homer to give AJ a 2-0 edge.
Pendleton scratched back with a single run in the bottom of the first inning to make it 2-1.
The Bulldogs took the lead in the third inning with two runs for a 3-2 edge.
“We came out and set the tone, but we couldn’t hold on against an outstanding Pendleton team,” AJ coach Mike Lucas said. “We gave it our best shot, but just fell short today.”
Pendleton held on from there to take the narrow win and the bid to the Class AA Upper State championship series.
AJ’s Chandler Gardner went five frames and allowed three hits, two earned runs and one unearned run. He fanned five and allowed three hits.
Austin Rape, an AJ freshman, went an inning and held the Bulldogs scoreless.
Garrett Coates had two singles for AJ. Chandler Neal slammed a two-run homer and Dustin Eddins drilled a double.
Tripp Rollings supplied a double and scored a run. Seth Graves added a hit for the Vols.
AJ finished the season with a 15-12 mark, which included its first region title since 1986 and the district runner-up.
The Vols were ranked eighth in the final Class AA regular-season poll.
The loss to Pendleton marked the final game for AJ seniors Eric Broughton, Garrett Coates, captain Bobby Delly and D.J. McIlwain.
“Our seniors gave us outstanding leadership this season,” AJ coach Mike Lucas. “We accomplished a lot this season. I feel we’ve turned the corner as far as competing goes. We’re headed in the right direction.
“We’re looking forward to next season with a solid nucleus of players back,” he said. “What we’ve accomplished is a tribute to our players and coaches. The key now is to work on the small things to take that next step. That’s fine-tuning.
“I like where we headed, but we’re not pleased with the status quo,” Lucas said. “We just need to keep working and take care of those small things.”