By Thomas Sellers Jr.
District championships banners decorate the outfield wall at Brighton Baseball Field.
Under the leadership of Brian Oswalt and Michael Wickersham, the Cardinals have been competitive in District 13-3A for nearly 20 years. But unlike their Tipton County brothers Covington and Munford, Brighton has never reached the final baseball tournament of Class 3A.
Friday night that all changed on the turf of Houston High School Baseball Field. Lead by Head Coach Ryan Wood and senior ace Logan Rushing, the Cardinals finally captured that elusive trip to Murfreesboro by defeating the Houston Mustangs 4-1 in the Class 3A Sectionals.
“It feels amazing we’re going to be in Murfreesboro next week,” Wood said. “It’s how hard each one of those players worked, each one of those assistant coaches. You’ve got to give all the credit to them. Logan pitched a heck of a game but it took very single guy over there. All 20 of them worked their tails off. Day one when we started working August what we had to do each step of the way.”
The Cardinals journey to the historic celebration got rolling by winning the 2021 District 13-3A Tournament to earn a home Region 7-3A Semifinal game. Brighton outlasted the Bartlett Panthers 3-2 to reach the Regional title game against Hardin County and earn a Sectional spot.
With Hardin County winning and earning a home contest, the Cardinals had to fly over to Germantown to take on the Region 8-3A champions Mustangs.
Rushing was up for the challenge dishing out 13 strikeouts against Houston including striking out the side in the first and third innings.
The offense the Cardinals needed was provided in the third inning. Brighton plated four runs in the frame with Rushing delivering a two-run triple that made the score 3-0.
Ahead 4-0, the Rushing went back to the mound with the mindset to dominate the Houston lineup. The Mustangs did managed to scratch out a run in the sixth inning but University of Memphis signee Rushing shut the door in the seventh inning with a pair of strikeouts.
“He was my ace,” Wood said. “He pitched really well that second game against Munford during the regular season. We knew then if we could just get to this week, he would have Monday night and Friday night we could just ride him to the final. We did and he did a heck of a job. Lot of heart. Love every one of those guys over there. It’s just been fun and it gets to keep being fun next week.”
Reaching State was Wood’s goal from Game One. It was a bumping road at times but the Brighton Skipper had faith in his players and staff.
“They raised above,” he said. “We had a game here the second game of the season against Harding. We didn’t look like we could play ball at all. These guys have grind, grind and grind to get where we are today. All the credit goes to those guys and the assistant coaches.”
In Tipton County baseball ranks high on the list of beloved sports alongside football and softball. Neighboring rivals Munford and Covington have a rich baseball history. The Covington Chargers are the last team to win the Class 2A State title back in 2019. The Munford Cougars are the home of the 1991 Class 3A State champions to go along with multiple State appearances.
Now the Tipton County school in the middle will make the trip to Murfreesboro.
“It feels great to finally join that club right there,” Wood said. “Coach O and Coach Wick have down a tremendous job over the years to build a heck of a program. All these guys have done is continue to elevate. They’ve done everything we’ve asked all year long. Really all four years.
“This group of seniors were part of three district championships,” he concluded. “We’ve got to that Monday night game year after year. We couldn’t get past the hump. We finally did this year and getting to Friday night I was like we’re playing with house money. Let’s go boys and get after it. I can’t give enough credit to all of them.”
By Thomas Sellers Jr.