STORY BY CHIP CIRILLO | PHOTOS BY CARL EDMONDSON, JR.
MURFREESBORO – Independence’s season came to a crashing halt Wednesday.
Losses to Bradley Central and Riverdale ended the Eagles’ season at 26-13 in the Class AAA baseball tournament at Siegel.
Riverdale dealt the final blow with a 13-2 loss in a game shortened to five innings by the 10-run rule.
The Warriors took control early with a 6-0 lead in the first inning and added six more in the fifth.
Brantley Bamburg led the way, going 4-for-4 with three RBI. Brett Dingess added three RBI, including a two-run homer in the first.
Daniel Dewey, Blake Wexler and Tucker Riley combined to hold the Eagles to one hit.
Bradley Central (24-14) rallied for three runs with two outs in the sixth inning to beat Independence 6-3 in the second round.
Ashton Simmons, the No. 9 hitter in the order, started the rally on an 0-2 pitch with a one-run single to shallow left field that bounced off shortstop Slater Schield’s outstretched glove.
Riley Black finished the scoring with a two-RBI single off reliever Cooper Hargrove.
“Baserunning mistakes, a couple defensive mistakes,” Eagles coach Mike McLaury said. “We’re not hitting the ball with runners in scoring position and that’s alarming because we’ve had our chances. We’ve been fighting that all year.”
The Eagles stranded six runners.
Vanderbilt commit Robert Hassell led off the game with his 15th homer of the season for Independence before being intentionally walked in his last three at-bats.
“We tried to sneak one early and he taught us he is who he is,” Bears coach Travis Adams said of the Mr. Baseball finalist. “We watched that game last night and you can’t let that guy beat you.”
Hassell’s two-run homer helped the Eagles rally past Arlington 3-2 in the first round Tuesday night. He homered in two straight at-bats against Arlington and Bradley Central.
“He’s as advertised,” Adams said. “The wind’s blowing out and if he gets one up in it, it’s going to go. I mean, he can hit it over the scoreboard, so we just had to tip our cap and move on.”
Hassell stole three baes and made a diving catch on Caden Sherlin’s sinking line drive to center field in the fifth.
“He’s probably the best we’ve seen,” Adams said. “We scrimmaged Farragut, him and Parker Noland are definitely the top two. It’s a five-tool deal (with Hassell.)”
Noland is a Vanderbilt signee.
Bradley Central is making its first state tournament appearance since 2007.
The Bears face Riverdale (26-13) in the upper bracket final at 2:00 p.m. Thursday.