By CHIP CIRILLO
Summit finally broke up the no-hitter in the final inning, but that was about the only bright spot for the Spartans.
Beech’s Ian McWilliams fired a one-hitter with eight strikeouts, ending Summit’s season in a flurry of fastballs with a 7-1 loss in a Class AAA Sectional in Spring Hill on Friday night.
“We ran into a buzz saw tonight,” Spartans coach Chad Kirby said. “He was pumping the fastball in there. He pitched great.”
Nick Johnson’s leadoff triple to right field ended McWilliams’ no-hit bid in the seventh.
Chase Waller tried to catch Johnson’s sinking line drive, but he couldn’t glove it and the ball bounced past him.
Johnson scored the Spartans’ only run on Tanner Koza’s groundout two batters later.
McWilliams beat Vanderbilt commit Chris McElvain, who suffered an off night, allowing seven runs and six hits in 3-2/3 innings.
“It was pretty tough,” McElvain said. “He had things going his way. We came out kind of slow tonight and as a group we weren’t awake.”
Summit (25-12), a final four team last season, finished one win short of a return trip to the state tournament.
The loss ended the Region 6-AAA champions’ eight-game win streak.
Beech (31-9) earned its first state tournament appearance in 35 years.
The Buccaneers won the Class AA title in 1982 in their only other state tournament appearance during the second year of the school’s existence.
Beech finally returns to Murfreesboro after finishing one win short in 2006 and 2008 after sectional losses to Franklin and Ravenwood.
Buccaneers coach Jimmy Neal, a Chicago Cubs fan, knows all about long waits.
“This is the kids’ accomplishment. It’s not mine. It’s theirs.” Neal said. “And I’m just so proud of them.”
McWilliams (6-3), who no-hit McNairy Central in five innings at the Gulf Coast Classic on March 22, walked only two batters and hit one in his 90-pitch gem.
“I was just locating the fastball,” McWilliams said. “I didn’t even really throw my changeup. Just fastball and curveball. When you have a lead, the less pitches the better, so I was just trying let them put it in play.”
Leadoff hitter Ty Sutley singled to center field on McElvain’s first pitch and Nelson Smith followed with a single.
They both ended up scoring, giving the Buccaneers a quick 2-0 lead in the first.
Beech batted around in the fourth, scoring five more to increase its lead to 7-0.
“We weren’t intimidated at all and that was huge to get up on them in the first couple of innings,” McWilliams said.
Kirby brought in Davis Jackson to relieve McElvain with one out in the fourth.
“It’s huge for our town,” McWilliams said of the state tournament berth. “We’ve been talking about this since we were little.”
McWilliams, a 6-foot-4 Alabama-Birmingham signee, has hit 91 mph with his fastball and is consistently in the 87-89-mph range.
“We changed eye levels well, we had them off-balance and his fastball was just on,” Buccaneers catcher Ryan Mortensen said. “Everything was going our way.”
Mortensen, an Ottawa (Phoenix) signee, said Beech set up its pitching machine to throw a hard fastball to prepare for McElvain, a sophomore who went 10-1 with a 0.81 earned run average in 2016.
McElvain started slowly this season, but had returned to form lately.
“We said we were going to come out swinging and if we go down, we’re going down swinging,” Mortensen said. “We had a pitching machine set up to about 90 mph. I mean, he throws about mid-80s. We were very ready.”