By Rick Sheek
Tournament time is approaching, and Elizabethton coach Joe Nix is tinkering with his baseball team to get primed for the stretch run.
The Cyclones turned back Cocke County 3-1 in non-conference action on Friday night at Joe O’Brien Field.
“They definitely kept battling and kept scrapping,” Nix said of the opposition. “We’ve got to get use to playing out of our normal routine, out of our normal 5 o’clock routine, and we’re going to play a lot of games either earlier or later coming up here in the postseason — so we’ve got to get use to playing at different times.”
A single off of reliever Austin Smith, a wild pitch and an error with one out put Fighting Cocks on second and third base in the seventh inning. Smith then pitched out of the jam, retiring the ensuing two batters to end the affair.
“Cory got into some trouble early, and pitched out of it,” Nix said. “He did a great job for us, and then Austin came in and sealed the deal. He got into some trouble there in the end, made it interesting, but got out of it – and that’s what you like to see from your pitchers.”
Elizabethton’s Cory Richardson hurled the first five innings, yielding two hits and the earned run while striking out three, walking four and hitting three batters. He was pulled in the sixth after serving up a single and walking a hitter.
Smith, in picking up the save, was touched for one hit. He walked one and unloaded three wild pitches.
The Cyclones’ Wes Montgomery batted 3 for 3.
“He was hot to start the year,” Nix said. “He cooled off a little bit, and we’re just trying to get him back to the nice simple swing approach he had early on. He seems to be finding it a little bit, and he hit the ball well tonight.”
Also for Elizabethton (19-7), Quincy Jackson and Chris Lanthorn were each 2 for 3.
Jackson’s run-scoring single put the Cyclones up in the first inning, Two runners were stranded.
Cocke County (8-18) had loaded the bases on an error and two hit batters to open the contest. Elizabethton catcher Thomas Miller picked off a runner to end the threat and strand two.
In the second, Elizabethton shortstop Chad Pritchard turned a double play to retire the Fighting Cocks.
The Cyclones increased their advantage to 3-0 in the third. Anthony Ward and Lanthorn each delivered run-scoring singles.
Richardson’s no-hit bid was broken up in the fifth. There were two runners on when he picked off a runner to retire the side.
After the Fighting Cocks turned a double play in the bottom half, Elizabethton left a runner on third.
Cocke County punched in its lone score, in the sixth, on a wild pitch.
The Fighting Cocks’ Jake Ottinger fired the six innings. He was roughed up for nine hits, yielded three earned runs and fanned four.
“We played efficient baseball,” Nix said. “We just didn’t seem to have much urgency tonight. That’s something that concerns me a little bit.
“I know it was somebody out of conference, somebody we don’t normally see, but it doesn’t matter who you’re playing. You’ve still got to play the game the way you’ve gone about the whole year, and have a little urgency in anything you do. We didn’t have a lot of it tonight.”
Cocke County 000 001 0 — 1 3 2
Elizabethton 102 000 x — 3 9 2
Ottinger and Rhodes. C. Richardson, Smith (6) and Miller. W—Richardson (7-1). L—Ottinger. S—Smith (2).