CHICKAMAUGA - Much has been said all year long of Gordon Lee's offensive prowess and their pitching depth.
Wednesday afternoon, the defense took its turn in the spotlight.
The Trojans (23-1, 15-1) turned in several highlight-quality plays in the field, including three from third baseman Jake Rogers, and got another stellar outing on the mound from sophomore Conard Broom in a 4-1 win over Darlington.
The win, Gordon Lee's 18th in a row, gave the Navy-and-White the Region 6-A "A" subregion championship. They will host Mt. Paran Christian at 5:30 p.m. on Friday in the region title game with the winner receiving an automatic berth in the state tournament.
Rogers made two diving stops on grounders at the hot corner, and hustled on a slow roller to nip a third Darlington runner at first.
Shortstop Cody Wilson and first baseman Bryce Bailey also made nice plays on hard-hit grounders, outfielder Daniel Brooks navigated the win to make a diving catch in right, and Broom helped himself by scrambling off the mound to thwart a would-be bunt single.
"We work on hard plays at practice so they're routine to us now," Rogers explained. "It feels good to go pitch on this team, knowing you have a defense like ours behind you that can make all the plays."
"The entire defense played great today, especially Jake," Gordon Lee head coach Mike Dunfee said. "He really came to play. He's just a sophomore, but he's a gamer and wow, did he really make some plays at third."
After allowing a walk, two singles, and a hit batsman, which gave the Tigers (20-4, 14-2) a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, Broom settled down and gave up just one more single the rest of the afternoon. He finished with 10 strikeouts and stranded seven Darlington runners on base.
"The defense was great today, and I really appreciate that," Broom said. "It's easy to pitch complete games when you've got those guys behind you."
Gordon Lee answered Darlington with three runs in the bottom of the first against Burton Delaney, taking advantage of some uncharacteristic wildness by the sophomore ace. Delaney uncorked five wild pitches in the inning, two of which allowed runs to score. The Trojans also got an RBI-single from catcher Tanner Sexton in the frame.
The Trojans added an insurance run in the third inning on a two-out double steal as Bay Wright was able to swipe home for Gordon Lee's fourth run.
The extra run was more than enough support for Broom, who got revenge for his and his team's only loss of the season, a 7-6 setback at Darlington on March 12.
"I was 0-2 against Darlington coming into this one, and I didn't know if I was going to pitch or not today because we got rained out last Friday," Broom explained. "But I found out yesterday that I was pitching, so I was pretty pumped up about it, and getting runs early helped too."
Wright was 3 for 3 with a hustle double and two runs scored, while Sexton was 2 for 3.
Delaney took the loss for Darlington, allowing eight hits in six innings of work. He finished with eight strikeouts.
With the goal of a subregion title in their pocket, Gordon Lee will turn their attention to Mt. Paran on Friday, knowing that a win could give them the overall No. 1 seed in the Class A public school playoffs next month.
"It feels great to know we're hosting the game," Rogers added. "Mt. Paran is a really good team and it should be a great game."