FAYETTEVILLE -- Tyler Hanson walked out of the bullpen in right field, looked at his coach and gave him a little nod before the start of the Class 4A baseball state championship game.
Hanson admittedly didn't have his best stuff as Nashville's ace pitcher over the past few weeks. On Saturday in Baum Stadium, it was all working for the senior right-hander. Hanson limited Shiloh Christian to seven hits in a complete-game 4-0 victory, giving the Scrappers a second consecutive state baseball championship.
"The last few starts my curveball has not been on, so I just focused on that all week," Hanson, who was named the game's MVP, said. "I threw like 20 curveballs every day in practice trying to find that release point.
"In the bullpen, I found it and I had it all day."
Hanson threw 90 pitches and had just one inning when he had any difficulty.
"Before spring break he was really good, but since spring break he'd kind of been a little sporadic," Nashville Coach Kyle Slayton said. "But today, this was probably his best performance since spring break. When he came out of the bullpen today to start the game, he said his curveball was good today."
Nashville (30-5) made the most of its five hits by manufacturing scoring chances and getting a couple of timely hits. The Scrappers scored the game's first run when nine-hole hitter Garrett Lance walked to open the fifth inning, was sacrificed to second and scored on Ty Gordon's RBI double.
Shiloh Christian (23-7) hurt itself with three base-running mistakes. The Saints had a runner picked off at first in the third inning, had a runner nabbed at third when he strayed too far off the bag on a bloop single, and a runner called out at home trying to score on a bobbled ball.
"It was big, but the thing about it is when you're in those situations, everything goes 50-50 or you leave yourself at the mercy of the umpires when you put yourself in those situations," Shiloh Christian Coach Moe Henry said. "Out of the three, I thought one of them was probably legit and that was a base-running mistake on our part. One was just us being aggressive and it happens.
"Things like that in a game this big, it adds momentum to them and kills innings for us."
Shiloh Christian starter Landon Brown struggled with control, walking four batters and hitting another before leaving the game in the sixth inning after reaching the 110-pitch limit.
Nashville blew the game open with three runs in the sixth inning, which started when the Saints failed to catch a foul popup down the right-field line. Chris Willard took advantage of the new life by ripping a leadoff double into the left-field corner. A hit batsman put two on, and both ended up scoring -- one on a Shiloh Christian error and another on an RBI groundout.
With a 4-0 lead, Hanson worked around an infield hit by Michael Connolly to get a double play in the sixth to keep Shiloh Christian scoreless. In the seventh, the Saints got a pair of two-out hits before Hanson got a fly to left to end the game, giving Nashville its third state championship.
"This is a whole new team this year," Slayton said. "We had seven new starters. To be able to come back and win 30 games and a state championship, this is special."
Hanson said the experience of winning the title last season was a big factor in the repeat.
"We just knew what it took," he said. "Just grind every day. Even though we had a lot of new faces, those guys bought in quick."
J.R. Middleton of Nashville hits a single in the sixth inning Saturday. Also shown is Shiloh Christian catcher Kyle LaRoche.
Sports on 05/20/2018
Print Headline: Nashville ace finds his best stuff