By Tim Chambers
Johnson County and Sullivan East racked up wins in the first round of the District 1-AA baseball tournament played on Friday night at Anglin Field.
The Longhorns snatched a victory from the jaws of defeat by knocking off Sullivan North 5-4 in extra innings. The Patriots blanked a pesky Happy Valley squad 7-0 by scoring six times over the final two frames.
The boys from Mountain City had swept the “Bloomingdale Bunch” during the regular season, but they fell behind 3-0 in the first inning.
Head Coach Pete Pavusek elected to throw Harley Reece in this contest hoping to save ace pitcher Ryan Mahala for Elizabethton on Saturday in case of a win. He praised Reece for showing toughness and savvy in his eight innings of work.
If we throw out that first inning and quit kicking it around then it’s our ball game — it’s over,” said Pavusek. He threw well and he’s been throwing well. It was my gut feeling to go with him and I’ve kind of relied on that over the years. I probably second guessed myself 16 times in the dugout but Harley pitched one heck of a game.”
North was the recipient of three unearned runs in the first inning with the help of three Johnson County errors.
At one point the score was 2-0 without a single ball being hit out of the infield.
Dusty Stout doubled in the bottom half then scored on a single by Daniel Helm to cut the deficit at 3-1.
The duo teamed up in the third inning to account for another run. This time Stout singled then scored on Helms’ two-bagger.
Fortunately for Johnson County, the pitching of Reece allowed them to keep whittling away at the lead.
He retired 18 out the next 21 batters after the first inning and allowed only one hit going into the eight inning.
The Longhorns tied the game in the sixth with the help of Andy Stout’s double and a Golden Raider error.
North used an RBI single by Aaron Mimmick in the eighth to score Chase Arnold, who had singled.
It would have been more had it not been for a great throw by second baseman Chad Hodgkiss, who nailed Mimmick at the plate trying to score.
He then turned around and won the game for them with his bat in the bottom half.
His walk-off double into the right field corner allowed Jacob Henson and River Cizare to sprint home after both had reached on errors.
“Good for Chad,” said Pavusek, who said he almost pinch hit for him before deciding to let him swing away. “He’s struggled some at the plate. That’s a memory he’ll have for the rest of his life.”
Dustin Stout and Helm went 2-for-4 apiece to lead the Lomghorns. Hodgkiss reached base three times in addition to his double and two RBI’s. Andy Stout and Judd Hammons accounted for the other two hits. Cizare was one base three times.
“I was just looking to move the runners over to second and third,” aid Hodgkiss about his game-winning hit. I got a pitch on the outside and took it that way. That’s my strength — hitting the ball on the right side. We weren’t about to let them win this game after sweeping them during the season.”
The Longhorns (15-9) were to face Elizabethton (22-8) at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
“We’ve won around nine of our last ten and have been playing well but everything just seem to work in our favor today,” added. Pavusek. North battled and did what they had to do to win the game but we get a perfect cue shot down into the right field corner and two runs score.”
It was almost a carbon copy of last week’s game with Elizabethton, when the Warriors were on the verge of pulling off the upset. This time they battled East tooth and nail for over half the game before giving up six run over the final two innings.
“Justin Norris pitched his tail off for us today,” said Happy Valley skipper Caleb Moore about his senior lefty. “I don’t know if we could have gotten anybody out without him. Of the flip side when you make more errors than you get hits and strike out ten times then it’s hard to beat anybody. We’re not putting any pressure on their defense because we don’t force them to make plays on us.”
A pair of singles by Justin Reagan were the only two hits in the game for Happy Valley off Patriot pitcher Kyle Harris.
He struck out 10 batters and allowed only one walk in his complete-game effort.
Aaron Boling had a monster night, going 4-for-4 for the Patriots. He nearly hit for the cycle with a single, two doubles and a solo home run. His roundtripper in fifth finally got the offense jump-started for Sullivan East.
Ryan Flick, Austin Glover and Tucker Widener had two hits apiece for the Patriots.
Justin Norris pitched six strong inning for the Tribe before giving way to Correy Garland to start the seventh.
The Warriors were to face Sullivan North at 6:30 in the elimination game on Saturday.
Sullivan North 300 000 01 — 4 5 5
Johnson Co. 101 010 02 — 5 7 3
West and Smith. Reece and Smith. W—Reece (3-0). L—West
Happy Valley 000 000 0 — 0 2 3
Sullivan East 001 033 x — 7 11 0
Norris, Garland (7) and Childress. Harris and Johnson. W—Harris. L—Norris. HR—Boling.