By Tim Chambers
Hall of fame catcher Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
Thus was the case in Elizabethton’s 12-6 baseball win over Happy Valley on Tuesday afternoon at Cannon-Gouge Park.
For 20 outs, the Warriors played dead even with the Cyclones and, minus a few miscues, should have been ahead. It was out 21 — the final one — that proved hardest for the Tribe to record.
“It takes 21 outs to win a baseball game, and unfortunately for us we played 20, said Happy Valley head coach Caleb Moore. “I was pleased with our effort up to that point, but what bothers me most is we had some guys who didn’t think we could win, so they gave up. You have to want to win and right now we don’t have that. I thought we outplayed them for 20 outs, but it wasn’t good enough to win the game.”
It might have been easier if Happy Valley hadn’t lost its crafty senior southpaw. Justin Norris had his knee lock up in the sixth inning and had to leave the game with two outs. The contest was tied at 6-6 upon his departure.
Chris Lanthorn led off that same frame with a bunt single. Austin Smith’s sacrifice fly allowed him to score, cutting the deficit at 6-5. Jordan Hinshaw’s bunt single would later result in him crossing home plate with the tying run before freshman reliever Nate Childress could record the final out.
It was the seventh inning to which Moore was referring. Happy Valley retired the first batter, but two errors on what should have been groundball outs gave ’Betsy new life.
What followed were three base hits and a walk that led to a sextet of runners scoring. That didn’t sit well with Moore.
“You can put kids in the right place and get them in a position to win, but after that it falls on the players,” said Moore. “I’m never going to be a perfect coach, but I’m going to try my best to put them where they need to be that gives us the best chance to win. Today we were, there but didn’t know how to finish it.”
Elizabethton grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first inning as Anthony Ward’s double scored Wes Montgomery, who had singled.
The margin was 3-0 in the third inning. Quincy Jackson and Lanthorn singled, and both scored on Austin Smith’s towering double off the center-field fence.
The Warriors followed with one of their biggest offensive innings of the year in the bottom half. They sent 10 men to the plate, and half of them scored.
Phillip Garland led off with a single, then moved to second on Chance Street’s sacrifice bunt — and Street was also safe on the play. ’Betsy botched a run-down attempt that should have resulted in Garland being out, but instead he scored on the error.
Norris had an RBI base hit that got HV within one. The Warriors finally grabbed a 4-3 advantage when Justin Reagan slapped a two-run single. Justin Maupin made it 5-3 with a run scoring hit before Elizabethton could halt the rally.
Elizabethton got back-to-back doubles by Montgomery and Thomas Miller in the fourth inning that edged it within one.
Happy Valley got it back after Sam Allie singled in the bottom half and scored with the help of two walks and a hit batsman.
Hinshaw drove home a run with a single in the seventh for Elizabethton. Chad Pritchard double in another. All six Cyclone runs were unearned.
Austin Smith started for the Cyclones before giving way to freshman Dylan Tolley in the fifth. Cory Richardson came on in the same frame to record the final out. He allowed only one hit and struck out four in 2 1/3 innings of work and earned the win.
Lanthorn had a big night, going 3-for-3 with three runs scored.
“He’s a spark plug,” said Nix about Lanthorn, inserted during the second inning. “He makes things happen and today he got us started with his speed. He definitely gave us a huge lift.”
Smith was 2-for-3 with three RBIs. Hinshaw and Montgomery added two hits apiece and scored twice. Miller and Jackson were 1-for-3 each.
Maupin swung the hot bat for Happy Valley, going 3-for-4. Norris was 2-for-2 and Reagan added a 2-for-4 performance. Garland, Allie and Colton Haun went 1-for-3 each.
Nix complimented the Warriors for their outstanding play.
“Happy Valley battled and those young kids played good baseball,” he said. “They had us on the ropes. Last time Smith pitched a one-hitter, but this time around they adjusted and had a great game plan. I told our guys that from here on out we’re going to see everybody’s best. Our kids did a great job of battling back and not giving up. Fortunately at the end, they found a way to win.”
Elizabethton 100 211 6 — 12 13 2
Happy Valley 000 510 0 — 6 10 4
Smith, Tolley (5), Richardson (5) and Miller. Norris, Childress (6), Maupin (7) and Street. W—Richardson. L—Childress.
With Chad Pritchard collecting a pair of hits and two RBIs, Elizabethton withstood Unaka for a 5-3 non-conference baseball win Saturday night at Joe O’Brien Field.
Using a three-run fourth to break a 2-2 tie, the Cyclones also got two hits from both Thomas Miller and Quincy Jackson. Miller, Jackson and Pritchard each accounted for a double.
The two teams combined for 20 hits, with Elizabethton collecting 11.
Yielding two runs and striking out seven batters over five innings, Dylan Richardson was credited with the win. Wes Montgomery (4 Ks) pitched the final two frames to pick up a save.
Thomas Hardin worked six innings from the hill for the Rangers, who committed no errors. Unaka’s Billy Bales and Eli Rasnick banged out a double apiece.