By Tim Chambers
Johnson County was hoping to secure a berth into next Friday’s sub-state game with a win over Unicoi County, but for now those plans have been on hold.
The Blue Devils rode a four-run third inning to their 7-4 victory on Thursday night at Anglin Field.
Both teams will battle again tonight, with the winner earning an automatic berth into the Region 1-AA championship game on Wednesday. The loser will travel to Greeneville on Monday to face the Green Devils in an elimination game.
“You’ve got to come and play all seven innings against Unicoi County, said Johnson County’s Pete Pavusek. “Unfortunately we didn’t. It was just one of those games that didn’t go our way. We’ve been playing well. We will just come back tomorrow and give it our best shot.”
The Blue Devils (17-15) executed a delayed steal in the second inning to score their first run. Austin Green singled, then moved to third on a base hit by Hunter Goddard. Two pitches later, Goddard attempted to draw a throw on a steal attempt and successfully did so. He was tagged out at second, but Green beat the throw home for a 1-0 advantage.
That set the stage for their big third frame that would put them in front 5-0.
Gavin Whitson and Austin Garrabrant led off with singles. Ethan Rice made it 2-0 with a run-scoring base hit. The fatal blow was a three-run triple off the bat of Green that cleared the bases.
Goddard’s second hit would enable Greene to score as well.
Two Unicoi errors and a Judd Hammons single helped Johnson County (16-10) dent the scoreboard in the fifth inning.
Unicoi recorded a solo run in the sixth, but the ‘Horns battled back to score twice and make it a game.
Harley Reece singled and Ryan Mahala doubled to get things started. Both would later score on an Erwin miscue.
Reece factored in the Johnson County’s final run by ripping a double that scored Daniel Helm.
Unicoi’s Charlie Baxter foiled the Longhorn rally by bringing on William McInturff to pitch in the seventh. He struck out the final batter to end the game.
Green pitched 6 1/3 innings for Unicoi to earn the win. Mahala was charged with the loss.
Reece knocked the cover off the ball by going 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles. Helm was 2-for-4. Hammons and River Cazire batted 1-for-3 apiece. Dusty Stout and Mahala shared the other two.
Rice, Garrabrant and Goddard banged out two hits apiece for the Blue Devils. Davis, Whitson and Green provided one each.
Pavusek is hoping his team can settle the score in tonight’s championship tilt. The fact that they battled gave him reason to be optimistic.
“I thought we did well trying to come back,” added Pavusek. “Andy Woods kept us within striking distance, but things didn’t go our way.”
Game time for today is set for 6 p.m.
NOTE: Following South Greene’s loss to Chuckey-Doak in the District II Class AA Baseball Tournament Tuesday, South Greene protested the use of a Chuckey-Doak pitcher where he threw more innings in back to back days than the TSSAA allows.
Chuckey-Doak was thrown out of the postseason. South Greene did not protest on the field and therefore was eliminated because of the loss. Therefore, the winner of Friday’s Johnson County-Unicoi game gets a bye in the first round of the region and automatically advances to the sectional.
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Johnson Co. 000 012 1 — 4 8 0
Unicoi Co. 014 001 x — 7 9 3
Mahala, Woods (4), and Smith. Green, McInturff (7) and Graham.