For 365 days, the Pigeon Forge Tigers have had one goal in mind: Winning the state championship.
Friday night the Tigers did just that, coming from three runs down with three outs to go and riding workhorse ace Wil Crowe's arm to earn a 5-3 victory over the Goodpasture Christian Cougars in extra innings.
It's the first team championship ever for Pigeon Forge High School, and the first team state championship in Sevier County since the 2002 Sevier County Bearettes captured the state title in basketball.
Sixth-year head coach Mike Guinn was beyond proud of his team following their miraculous come-from-behind victory.
"(Going into the) seventh inning I told these boys, 'Play together, stay together,'" Guinn said.
"When we started the top of the seventh inning, that was our last chance. I said, 'Play together, stay together.' In other words, when things get tough don't give up. Believe in each other. Things won't always go your way. But they stuck together in that seventh inning, and that's why it went their way. They stuck together. We were together, win or lose."
Trailing 3-0 and only three outs from a long drive home, the Tigers got their first batter on, as senior Colt Buchanan hustled down the line and forced a throwing error on an infield chopper and ended up on second.
Drake Byrd, who was on fire at the plate throughout the tournament, followed with a double to right-center against Goodpasture's J.P. Brenzie, who'd gone the distance for the Cougars.
With the Pigeon Forge crowd turning raucous, a passed ball followed, and Buchanan chugged down the line to the plate, earning the Tigers' first run of the game as Byrd advanced to third.
Junior Koleman Roach, who also had a great tournament, then singled to right on a 1-0 pitch to pull the Orange and Black to within one at 3-2.
After a pitching change, Max McCoig sacrifice bunted, advancing Roach to scoring position.
A fielder's choice moved Roach on to third, but moved gave the Cougars their second out of the inning.
But sophomore Jake Griffin, the Tigers' No. 9 hitter, came to the plate and made good in the biggest at-bat of his young career.
Griffin, who moved to Pigeon Forge with his family from South Carolina prior to the season, lined a 1-1 pitch for a single up the middle to score Roach and tie the game at 3-3.
The large Pigeon Forge crowd went wild, as did the players, sensing the game was within their grasp.
The Tigers took the lead in the very next inning, capitalizing on back-to-back singles from Scott LaFollette and Wil Crowe with a two-run double from Byrd to go up 5-3.
"Drake Byrd has been so clutch since tournament play started," Guinn said. "He's had a big hit in each of the last three games. Drake Byrd is the man of the hour right now."
Crowe, who'd pitched the grittiest game of his career — throwing over 150 pitches and striking out 15 Cougars hitters — struck out the side swinging to end the game and clinch the Tigers' first-ever title.