Johnson County got the early momentum and rolled with it.
Using 11 hits, including five doubles, the Longhorns held back Happy Valley 11-5 Monday at Cannon-Gouge Park.
The Warriors, facing a 7-3 deficit, made it a two-run game, but Johnson County put the breaks on a comeback attempt with a four-run sixth inning and held serve during Happy Valley’s final two at-bats.
“We scored a few runs and we got a little cushion there,” said Longhorn coach Pete Pavusek. “It’s a lot easier as a pitcher to be able to throw strikes when you’ve got a few extra runs.”
The Longhorns opened the gate with three runs in the first inning.
A Harley Reece hit was misplayed in the outfield, allowing two runs to cross with the double. Jacob Henson added a double of his own to score Reece for the early edge.
“I try to stress that we’ve got to get them out in the first inning,” said Happy Valley coach Caleb Moore. “We’ve got to get started on the right foot. It seems like every game we’re playing down 3-0 from the top of the first. We’ve got to be the aggressor and not the one playing catchup.”
Happy Valley responded with a pair of runs.
Camen Wilder walked and advanced to third on a fielding error. Justin Maupin reached on a fielder’s choice to put two on the bag for Phillip Garland, who offered a sacrifice fly.
A single from Chance Street advanced Maupin, who was illegally touched by an infielder while rounding the bases and credited with a run. The run stood at the behest of Pavusek, who argued the call with the field and plate umpires.
Johnson County became the aggressor again, however, with three more runs in the second.
Judd Hammons tallied an RBI single, Daniel Helm plated a run with a double and Reece drove in a run with this second double.
Happy Valley cut into the four-run deficit in the bottom of the frame with Aaron Renfro’s RBI single, plating Justin Reagan who reached on a one-out triple.
The Longhorns answered the Warriors’ run in the third inning. After singles from Jacob Henson and Ryan Smith, an errant throw allowed Henson to cross the plate. Smith was tagged out by the catcher.
The third JCHS batter Chad Hodgkiss was walked to first on a close down-the-pipe pitch that was questioned by the Happy Valley skipper Moore — ejected after he called out the official’s late arrival and delayed starting time in the midst of the argument.
The Warriors got out of the inning and answered the run on offense in the third with an RBI double from Colton Haun. The deficit was cut to two in the fourth with doubles from Wilder and Maupin, who plated Wilder.
A brief scoreless drought was solved in the sixth by the Longhorns, who took advantage of a Warrior blow up with one out on the board. Three walks, passed balls, a struck hitter and a pair of errors matched with an RBI double from Daniel Helm allowed for four runs.
The Warriors got out of the field on two groundouts with two Longhorns in scoring position, ending what could have been an even worse situation.
“We left a lot of runners out there,” said Pavusek. “I think we should’ve come through and it’s tough when you’ve got the bases loaded and infield hits and two times in a row there we didn’t come through and had an opportunity to tack on some runs.
“After that Sullivan Central game, a six-run (lead) and I’m scared. I’m not taking anything for granted anymore. I don’t care if its six runs or 60 runs.”
The Warriors were unable to respond over the final two frames.
“We battled back,” said Moore. “We’re down 7-3 and we get it to 7-5 and it’s the same thing that has happened to us all year. We’ve let the one big inning get away from us. We had a couple of errors, we’re not throwing strikes and the next thing you know the game is out of reach.
“It’s tough to come back when you’re down five, six, seven, but when you’re down two you’ve got a shot.”
Helm was 3-for-4 on the day with two doubles to lead the Longhorns, adding three runs scored and two driven on. Harley Reece, who plated three and scored twice on a pair of doubles, was 2-for-4 with Jacob Henson adding a 2-for-3 outing with two ribbies.
Wilder, on a 2-for-3 day, was the lone Warrior with multiple hits.
Andy Woods, who pitched a five inning start, was credited with the win over Happy Valley’s Justin Norris, who pitched the first two innings.
The Warriors return to action with a makeup tilt at Elizabethton this afternoon.
Johnson Co. 331 004 0 — 11 11 2
Happy Valley 211 100 0 — 5 8 2
Woods, Reece (6) and Smith. Norris, Allie (32), Childress (6) and Street. 3B—HV, Reagan. 2B—Johnson Co., Helm 2, Reece 2, Henson, HV 3 (Wilder, Maupin, Haun).