The 5-foot-8, 185-pounder junior pitched a complete game, one-hitter while striking out five. His two-run homer to left field in the bottom of the third inning broke a scoreless tie as the second-seeded Golden Eagles seized control of the game.
“Tanner’s been playing for us since the ninth grade and I thought he did a great job keeping his composure on the mound tonight,” Jacksonville coach David Deerman said. “Alexandria, I got a lot of respect for them. They’ve got some really good hitters. They’re tough outs all the way around.”
The meeting between Class 4A, Area 10 foes was the first this season. The win improves Jacksonville’s record to 4-4 and pits the Golden Eagles against Class 6A Oxford in today’s 6:30 p.m. final at Henry Farm. The top-seeded Yellow Jackets followed up a 25-0 defeat of Pleasant Valley in the quarters with a 15-0 defeat of Saks in the semis to reach the county tournament championship game.
Tonight’s game will be the third time in as many seasons that Jacksonville and Oxford have met in the final. The Golden Eagles upset Oxford on its own field 8-6 last year in dramatic fashion to lay claim to the county crown.
“Oxford’s obviously the best team in the county,” Deerman said. “They’ve got some kids that have signed some big-time scholarships. We’re trying to line up against them with a bunch of ninth, 10th and 11th graders. We’ll go out there and try our best to throw the ball across the plate and make plays behind them.”
That’s exactly what his team did all night Tuesday against the third-seeded Valley Cubs (5-4).
Whenever Alexandria could figure Sims out enough to make solid contact, the Golden Eagles’ defense was right there to make their opposition’s efforts null and void.
Take the final three outs of the game for example.
Down three runs, the Valley Cubs were looking to rally.
First, Logan Doss hit a rocket toward the foul line in right field but it was chased down by an outfielder and caught for an out.
The same thing happened when Ethan Curvin hit what would’ve been a sure double to left before Lavontae Lacount made a diving grab. Freshman Maxwell Thurmond made a nice catch on the run in the gap between centerfield and right field to end the game.
“They were very important because I’m not a big strikeout guy,” Sims said of his defense. “So, I need the defense behind me. They played very well tonight.”
The Golden Eagles added two insurance runs in the fifth when Jared Tippets singled to bring in Michael Frankum and Thurmond added an RBI double.
Alexandria’s only run came in the sixth when Jacob Whiting grounded out to bring a runner in.
“They played well and did a good job. We just couldn’t do nothing with them,” Alexandria coach Andy Shaw said. “They had six or seven big hits and we had one. What do you say to that?”
Frankum was 2-for-2. Sims added a double and Tippets was 1-for-2.
Tyler Burr got Alexandria’s hit. Tanner Wells took the loss, going 3 1/3 innings while striking out three and giving up three hits.
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575. Follow him on Twitter @birds_word.