By Blake Long/Special to the Journal
JACKSON – A torn labrum kept Reed Gregory off the pitching rubber for most of his senior season. But when Bruce coach Josh Dowdy called his number on Saturday, Gregory delivered.
Gregory earned his first save of the season by tossing the final three innings to finish Bruce’s 7-3 Game 2 victory over Taylorsville in the MHSAA Class 2A state championship series.
The win clinched the first baseball state title in school history for the Trojans (23-9) in their first appearance. Taylorsville, the defending 2A champions, finished 26-7.
After a scoreless fifth, the Tartars scratched a run off Gregory in the sixth on a RBI double by Sam Walley to cut Bruce’s lead to 5-3.
But the bottom of the batting order came through for Bruce as it did in Game 1. Six-hole hitter Taylor Shoemake hit a double that scored two insurance runs in the bottom half to give the Trojans some breathing room.
Dowdy contemplated sending Game 1 starter Jay King to the mound for the seventh, but Gregory had other ideas.
“I told him ‘Let me go back out,’” Gregory said, “and he asked me if I was sure and there was no doubt I was sure. I wanted to be back out there.”
Gregory worked around two base runners and struck out Bryce Ainsworth to end the game and start the Trojans’ celebration.
The bottom of the Bruce lineup was also instrumental in taking the lead for good in the third. Shoemake was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded before seven-hole batter Codie McMahan hit a 2 RBI single to put the Trojans up 3-2.
“All year I said let’s just put it together and if the top can’t do it, the bottom has to,” said Dowdy. “In the playoffs everybody has to show up every single day and play baseball and get the big timely hits. These guys did it.”
Solo runs in the fourth on a RBI triple by starting pitcher Chase Clark and in the fifth when Tyler Kilcrease scored on a wild pitch increased Bruce’s lead to 5-2.
Taylorsville loaded the bases off Clark (8-4) in the fourth with Walley, their leading hitter, coming to bat with two outs. But Walley popped up to end the frame.
“We just didn’t catch a break and didn’t get that big hit the whole series,” Taylorsville coach Dusty Hillman said.
Mason Woodrow (8-3) pitched into the sixth and took the loss for the Tartars.