By Tim Chambers
For one inning Elizabethton played like the “Bad News Bears” against David Crockett. The other six frames were bad news period for the Pioneers.
’Betsy won its fourth game in four days — an 8-5 decision on Thursday night at Joe O’Brien Field.
Elizabethton skipper Joe Nix was concerned about how is kids would approach this game coming off three big road wins in conference play.
“We talked about it before the game,” said Nix. “We played well in the first inning, but for some reason we booted it around and lost our focus in the second. Austin pitched well and threw groundball outs, but we just didn’t make the plays. Our kids battled and got back in it. They found a way to win and didn’t quit.”
Things actually started well for the Cyclones in the first inning. They jumped on top 3-0 and turned a 6-4-3 double play in the top half to get out of a jam.
Chad Pritchard led off with a single then scored on a base hit by Thomas Miller. Anthony Ward’s two-bagger, Jordan Hinshaw’s groundout and Conner Campbell’s single helped account for the other two runs.
The Pioneers bounced back in the second frame to score four unearned runs to take the lead.
Their only hit was a double by Chad Smith that brought home a run. ’Betsy aided that total by making four errors.
Elizabethton (7-1) put three more on the board in the bottom half to retake the lead at 6-4. It banged out five hits in the inning, but only one left the infield.
Chris Lanthorn beat out an infield single followed by back-to-back bunt base hits by Quincy Jackson and Pritchard to the bases. Wes Montgomery and Miller delivered a pair of base hits to put ’Betsy back in front 5-4. The sixth run scored off a double-play ball.
Jackson drove home a solo run in the third inning with his second-base hit.
Miller continued to swing the hot bat by picking up his third hit in the fourth inning. Hinshaw’s run-scoring single added some insurance for a 8-4 advantage.
Not lost in the shuffle was the outstanding pitching performance from Austin Smith. He retired nine batters in a row after ’Betsy’s nightmare second inning.
Crockett added another unearned run in the sixth to pull within three. Kole Tarlton’s double drove home Matt Hargrove, who had reached on an error.
A walk and hit batsman to start the seventh inning would end Smith’s complete-game bid. Cory Richardson was summonsed to the mound and once again closed the door.
He got the final two batters — the last one via strikeout — to collect the save.
Smith fanned eight and allowed five hits. All five runs give up were unearned.
The hit parade totaled 15 for Elizabethton.
Miller ended the night going 4-for-4 with two RBIs after a 3-for-3 outing versus Sullivan East.
Pritchard was 3-for-4 with a pair of runs scored and two stolen bases. Ward and Jackson went 2-3 apiece.
“It didn’t show in our first at-bat, but we were dead,” said Miller. “Nobody was talking in the field and barely anyone was up in the dugout. Once we started to get a few hits, then everybody seem to start showing some energy. We felt confident we could battle back.”
The quartet of wins this week has been sweet music for Miller and company.
“We knew this was going to be tough with three road games,” said Miller. “The wins over Unicoi County and Sullivan East were huge because both of them have excellent teams.”
The Cyclones will take part next week in a tournament at Myrtle Beach, S.C.. They’ll play five games in the Palmetto State beginning Monday.
David Crockett 040 001 0 — 5 5 1
Elizbethton 331 100 x — 8 15 5
Hargrove, Shell (5) and Rogers. Smith, Richardson (7), and Miller. W—Smith. L—Hargrove. Sv—Richardson.