By Tim Chambers
Not even MC Hammer’s song “U Can’t Touch This” could have said it any better. Austin Smith was almost perfect in Elizabethton’s 12-0 win over Happy Valley on a rainy Tuesday night at Joe O’Brien Field.
His only blemish was giving up a lead-off single to freshman pinch hitter Garrett Church in the fifth inning. Before that, he had retired 12 straight batters.
Smith finished strong, fanning the final three batters he faced to end the game.
“Baseball is a weird sports and games are not won on paper,” said ’Betsy head coach Joe Nix. “Our kids are well aware of that. We told them not to push the issue, to come out aggressive, ready to play and they did. “Smiddy” comes out and throws us a great game, and obviously when you’ve got someone throwing like that it makes it a little bit easier on everybody else. Plus we gave him some run support which is always good.”
Elizabethton jumped on top 2-0 in the first inning. Wes Montgomery ripped a one-out single, then scored on a towering triple by Thomas Miller, one of three in the game for the Cyclones.
A wild pitch enabled Miller to come home, but freshman Correy Garland whiffed the final batter with two aboard to prevent further damage.
The Cyclones duplicated that output by pushing across two more runs during the second frame. A pair of walks proved costly as Cody Guess and Smith scored without the aid of a single base hit. A diving catch by freshman right fielder Phillip Garland to end the inning prevented two more Cyclones from scoring.
It was a nightmarish third frame by the Tribe that broke the game wide open for the Cyclones.
Garland walked the first three batters before giving way to Colton Haun with nobody out. From that point, ’Betsy lit up the board like a Christmas tree.
Cody Guess provided a two-run single. Chad Pritchard roped a triple to the right-field fence, followed by Montgomery’s second hit that score one more.
In all, Elizabethton sent 12 batters to the plate. Campbell delivered their third three-bagger of the game — a line shot into the left-field corner that scored one. Quincy Jackson closed out the scoring with a run-scoring single.
Happy Valley countered with four pinch-hitters over the final two frames, hoping to find the one who could break up Smith’s perfect game. When Church’s hit fell between shortstop and left field, the entire congregation of Warrior fans let out a shout of acclamation. It was gratifying for them not to leave empty-handed.
“Nobody told me I had a perfect game — the guys said nothing,” said Smith, who recorded seven strikeouts. “I was slipping a little bit on the mound, but I was hitting my spots. I just left a pitch to much over the middle of the plate and they hit. It was probably the best I pitched this year except for the game against Johnson County.”
Campbell led the Cyclones at the plate, going 2-for-2 with a pair of RBIs. Miller added a 2-of-4 effort with two RBIs. Montgomery was 2-for-4 with an RBI and scored twice. Chris Lanthorn was 1-for-1 in his only appearance at the plate, and Pritchard, Jackson and Guess were 1-for-2 each.
Happy Valley’s David Baines served as head coach in the absence of Caleb Moore, who was serving the first of a two-game suspension after getting ejected in Monday’s loss to Johnson County.
“You’ve to tip your hat to Smith,” said Baines. “He threw a great game and had command of all his pitches. We battled hard but tonight they were just better that us. Hopefully in the future we’ll be able to give back some of the stuff that we’ve been getting.
“Elizabethton is a good and well coached team.”
Happy Valley 000 00 — 0 1 1
Elizabethton 228 0x — 12 9 0
Garland, Haun (3) and Street. Smith and Miller. W—Smith. L—Garland.