Christ Presbyterian Academy held a players-only meeting after a disappointing fourth-place finish in the district tournament.
Three weeks later, the Lions were state baseball champions.
“We knew we had the talent to make it far and make a good run in the playoffs, but really we were playing super selfish during most of the regular season and a little bit into the district tournament,” CPA utilityman Langston Patterson said. “We were all just, like, we’ve got to come together and support one another and get behind one another to be the best team we can, not just the best nine individuals.”
Patterson said it was hard because the Lions had 13 players who were good enough to start.
“We had three guys rotating in and out at the (designated hitter) spot, two guys rotating out in right field,” Patterson said. “Some of the DH guys weren’t getting behind one another when the other one was at bat, just hoping they’d get some time and stuff like that.”
Or a player would go 4-for-4 at the plate in a loss and think, hey, I did my job.
Patterson said everyone fell into the hole of caring more about themselves than the whole team.
“(CPA) coach (Larry) Nesbitt always used to tell us during the huddles, ‘Give up me for we’ and that’s kind of the mentality we brought into the playoffs,” Patterson said. “We played our best baseball at the right part of the season, but we were also able to muscle through a couple tough games just solely based on everyone getting behind each other.”
Dugout energy helped the Lions get the momentum in several crucial games.
CPA (31-14-1) won the Division II-A title with a 12-11 win over Northpoint Christian at Middle Tennessee Christian on May 27.
Trevecca signee James Dickson threw a complete-game shutout in CPA’s 3-0 Middle Region win over Goodpasture (31-5) in the first game after the players-only meeting.
“It just felt amazing and really didn’t stop for the rest of the postseason,” Nesbitt said. “After Goodpasture, it was consistent energy and our players, every single one of them, were hungry to keep on playing. Goodpasture was the one seed in the region and either one or two in the state when we defeated them.”
Dickson kept Goodpasture off-balance with his fastball, changeup and curveball.
“James Dickson threw a gem,” Patterson said.
The Lions returned only four players from the 2019 team that finished second in the state.
Pitching depth was the Lions’ best strength this season.
“We had seven or eight guys that we could run out there that could throw strikes and could beat teams,” Nesbitt said.
In the championship, Northpoint (32-9) rallied for five runs in the top of the seventh and loaded the bases with two outs, but Gavin McEvoy got James Smith on a fly out to right field to win the title.
“I’m not going to lie, I was a little bit nervous,” Nesbitt said. “But we were in the middle of our 46th game so there was really no reason for us to get rattled. I definitely think that we were battle tested and we fell back to our training.”
CPA didn’t lose any players to COVID-19 during the pandemic and the school didn’t have a single case during the last eight weeks of the year.
The Lions got off to a 3-0 start in 2020 when the remainder off the season was canceled due to the pandemic.
Patterson was named Most Valuable Player in the championship game after getting six RBIs, including a two-run homer.
“If I was a betting man, he’ll be the (Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association) Player of the Year,” Nesbitt said of the junior who played right field early in the season. “He hit .421, he was second on the team in stolen bases with 34, led the team with 12 home runs, led the team in RBIs with 48. Yea, he had an incredible year offensively and did a great job of leading us.”
Patterson is able to remain relaxed, allowing him to perform at the highest level.
“He’s always having fun,” Nesbitt said of the middle linebacker who became Vanderbilt first-year coach Clark Lea’s first commitment for the Class of 2022.
“I’m a true believer in that staff,” Patterson said of Lea and Vandy. “If he wouldn’t have came there, I could see myself somewhere else, Notre Dame or where he was. He’s truly turned things around this year.
“I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us in the future. I’m seeing SEC championships somewhere in there. (Lea) was a (defensive coordinator) at Notre Dame and you saw all the numbers he put up there.”
Twenty of the Lions’ 27 players also won a state title in football last fall.
“We’ve won two state championships in baseball and both of them followed football state championships,” Nesbitt said.
CPA won it first baseball state title with a Class AA championship in 2015.
“Our closer was our tackle and he was throwing to the quarterback,” Nesbitt said of Evan Carney and catcher Cade Law. “You build those type of relationships and they really love each other.”
Patterson and Cade Reynolds played second base and first base late in the season after suiting up at linebacker in the fall.
The 2015 state champions were known more for their defense.
Nesbitt just finished his 14th season at CPA, where he’s won over 300 games.
He played shortstop at Lipscomb Academy and Lipscomb University.
“To have a special run like we did in the region, the sectional and the state was absolutely amazing,” Nesbitt said.
CPA's top pitchers
1) Zee Thompson (Sr.)
--8 Wins 1 Loss
2) Braxton Orr (So.)
--7 Wins 1 Loss
3) Gavin McEvoy (Jr.)
--5 Wins 2 Losses
4) James Dickson (Sr.)
--4 Wins 3 Losses
5) Evan Carney (Jr.)
--2 Wins 2 Losses