Brighton High School opened its doors in 1996 and has fielded 24 baseball teams during that time span.
No team has ever made it to the state tournament and just one, the 2007 team, made it as far as the sectionals, the winners of which go to state.
When Brighton knocked off Bartlett 3-2 Sunday afternoon at home in a Region 7-AAA semifinal game, the Cardinals became just the second team in program history to make it to the sectionals.
They will be looking to become the first Brighton baseball state tournament team this Friday when they play Collierville or Houston.
“It was definitely a different feeling than winning a regular game because we haven’t made it this far since we’ve been in high school,” said senior Logan Rushing, who struck out four and allowed just one walk in five hits in a complete-game win. “It’s a pretty big deal to make it to sub-state (sectionals).”
“We didn’t think about it right after the game, but since we won last night it’s been a game changer,” said senior Grady Higgins. “We could be the first Brighton team to make it to state.”
“Our kids rose to the occasion,” said head coach Ryan Wood. “I think the common theme was that every time Bartlett punched, our kids punched back. That’s what we’ve talked about all year.”
Bartlett tied the score at 1-1 with a run in the top of the fourth before Brighton regained the lead with two runs in the bottom of the frame.
The Bartlett lead-off hitter in the top of the seventh hit a high pop fly in foul territory. First baseman Luke Perkins made an impressive over-the-shoulder catch to record the first out and Rushing took care of the rest.
Ben Lavelle, Kaleb Baskin and Ethan Pfeiffer all made some big defensive plays throughout the game to help Brighton maintain its lead. Andrew Davis, Bennett Stutts and Pfeiffer each drove in one run for the Cardinals.
Wood said assistant coaches Reed Spicer and Graham Poston were vital to the win over Bartlett. They instructed Brighton’s hitters to make some mid-game adjustments that netted three runs.
“Anytime you can beat Bartlett in that game, it’s huge,” Wood said. “Them and Arlington are used to being in that game every single year. All the credit goes to the players and the assistant coaches.”
Brighton (23-13) will host Hardin County on Wednesday at 5 p.m. in the Region 7-AAA title game. The winner will host Collierville or Houston Friday in a sectional. The loser travels to Houston or Collierville. Sectionals winners advance to next week’s Class AAA State Tournament in Murfreesboro.
The Cardinals lost in the region semifinals in 2018 and 2019, making Sunday’s win even sweeter.
“It means everything to us,” senior Nate McFarland said. “We’ve been fighting for four years to get here and we’ve finally done it. Now we’re going to try and push through and go to state.”
Brighton’s seven seniors were in pre-school the last time Brighton played a sectional game, which the Cardinals lost to Houston. They seem to understand the magnitude of the situation.
“The last four years have been kind of hard for this baseball team,” Pfeiffer said. “Everybody has stepped up this year to get us this far.”
“It means a lot to get this far and make history for Brighton High School,” Baskin said.
“It felt good to do something that hasn’t been done in a while,” said Luke Olivette.
Said senior Jake Buchanan: “Ever since freshman year we’ve always lost that game, so it’s something we wanted.”
If Brighton can get to Murfreesboro, Wood believes his team can match up with anyone.
“I would say, more than anything, they’re the most bought-in team that we’ve had as far what we’re trying to do,” Wood said. “The coaching staff has done a heck of a job. They’ve worked hard all year and now their focus is getting it done Friday night and going to state. If we get it done it Friday night I have just as much confidence in us as anybody at state … Friday night with a chance to go to state? That’s where you want to be.”