At Farragut High School, losing baseball games is a big deal.
It's not that the Admirals have become accustomed to falling short on the scoreboard. In fact, the opposite is true. Matt Buckner's program wins so much that when it does lose, it becomes the topic of conversation, especially in the postseason.
The Admirals (37-8, 15-4 a year ago) have won four straight Tennessee AAA state titles and seven of the last nine. Buckner's "Greatest Show on Dirt" has posted a sterling 162-22 record during its four-year title run, including a 16-1 mark in the state baseball playoffs.
Farragut's lone playoff loss since 2007-08 was a 4-0 setback in Game 11 to Collierville (Tenn.) in 2010. But the Admirals bounced back to take game 13 by a 6-5 score before outscoring Houston (Germantown, Tenn.) 3-1 in the championship game to keep the title streak alive.
Farragut has won eight state baseball titles, second-best in Tennessee, falling just short of Christian Brothers' (Memphis, Tenn.) 11 championships. With a dominating pitching staff returning in 2012, and a defensive nucleus second to none, the expectations at Farragut are for more of the same and it seems fitting that the team is ranked No. 8 in the Preseason Xcellent 25 National Baseball Rankings.
A season ago, Xander Taylor joined forces with 2012 Vanderbilt freshman Philip Pfeifer on the mound to befuddle Columbia (Columbia, Tenn.) 2-0 in the championship game with a combined no-hitter. The senior lefty, who is committed to play at Volunteer State Community College, has been clocked in the 84-87 mph range and posted an 8-2 mark with 75 strikeouts and a 1.86 ERA a year ago.
Unfortunately for Buckner, who is 79-14 through two seasons at Farragut, Taylor is in need of shoulder surgery due to a torn labrum and is finished for the season. The third-year coach, however, will still be able to put an outstanding pitching staff on the mound this spring.
Back in Buckner's rotation are junior righthander Eric Freeman and sophomore Chase Chambers after they posted 5-2 and 5-0 records, respectively, a year ago. Junior Kyle Serrano, a transfer from California, and freshman Patrick Raby are also set to start on the mound, while senior sidearmer Jordan Newby is the top Admiral reliever.
University of Tennessee signee A.J Simcox will once again man the shortstop position for Buckner. Leading the state with 70 hits a year ago, Simcox put together a first team all-state season after hitting a robust .470.
University of Tennessee commit Cameron "Jammer" Strickland returns to left field, while fellow junior Anthony El Chabani will roam right field once again. Juniors Nick Senzel and Brett Hagenow will start at second base and catcher, respectively. Junior catcher/infielder David Logan is a former home school student that enrolled at Farragut in the fall.
Simcox, Senzel and Strickland give Buckner a solid nucleus from which to build another outstanding defense.
"Farragut is probably the preeminent baseball program in the state. They've won the last four AAA state baseball championships in Tennessee all while undergoing coaching changes. When Tommy Pharr left a couple of years ago, his protégé Matt Buckner took over and I'm sure there was a lot of scrutiny – as well as a lot of pressure. But he took the talent he had and kept going with it. I think the job he did last year gave him a lot of credibility in a lot of people's eyes. They had to overcome the injury (to Philip Pfeifer) and had some sick players. Nicky (Delmonico), in my opinion, wasn't matching the numbers he had in the past. But (Buckner) pulled the guys together and they found a way to win it again.
"Look for Farragut to be in lower-scoring games this season and to win with pitching. They have several young guys that earned experience in previous seasons that should step in this year. The Admirals should make the state tournament and challenge for another state championship."- Jesse Smithey, Knoxville News Sentinel