by Dean Fox
FRANKLIN, Tenn. -- The Southlake Dragons breathed fire at just the right time at the Big South Regional Championships, capturing the 14-under championship late Sunday morning with a 7-2 victory over the Nashville Knights Platinum team.
The Dragons (Texas) split their three pool-play games, getting a win and a tie to earn the No. 5 seed in the tournament. But the Dragons had a pair of shutouts in the first two elimination games, then scored four times in the top of the first in the championship game.
"These guys have been full of fight the whole season," Dragons coach Tim Wright said. "That's been their M.O. They've been fighting the whole summer, and so I thought we were in a pretty good spot going into the tournament. We had a lot of pitching left, and we've got a lot of talent."
The game couldn't have started any better for the Dragons. The first seven batters all walked as two different Knights pitchers struggled to find the plate, combining to throw strikes only six times in their first 33 pitches. As a result, the Dragons scored four times, with Jace Christian, Hayden Lee, Andy Fordyce and Nate Arterburn all drawing bases-loaded walks.
"It's a little frustrating because we're a hitting team," Wright said. "You want to get there and get the bats going, but you take what you're given and that's how it works."
Knights reliever Evan Bell escaped further damage, using a nice play by first baseman Max Weyenberg, who caught a liner and turned into a double play. But those four first-inning runs would be crucial.
Dragons starter Grant Wright pitched four solid innings, allowing only third-inning damage when Gabe Hildabrand hit a two-out, two-run double that cut the Knights' deficit in half, 4-2.
"Grant Wright has won a lot of games for us, and Kaleb Higgs did a great job those last three innings," Tim Wright said. "They've been a dynamic duo."
The Dragons took control of the Knights' wildness in the sixth, loading the bases on three walks. Christian and Ben Tryon scored on consecutive squeeze plays, and Arterburn scored on a wild pitch to make it 7-2.