“I’m so proud of how we responded tonight,” praised head coach Joe Shamblin after his Mustangs fought back to claim a 10-7 victory over Warren County. “We jumped out to a big lead, then gave it up in one at bat, but our guys fought back and never gave up.”
The win means Walker Valley (26-11) will host a TSSAA sectional playoff game Friday evening at 7 against sixth-ranked Tullahoma (26-10) with a berth in next week’s state tournament on the line. All tickets for Friday’s contest will be $7 at the gate. Warren County (21-18) will have to travel to ninth-ranked Murfreesboro Riverdale (29-10) for Friday’s substate battle.
Playing without senior Bobby Towne in the lineup due to a shoulder injury suffered in Monday’s region semifinal, Walker Valley got a couple of clutch performances Wednesday to pick up the slack.
Junior Kamren Barnes made the most of the opportunity to start in Towne’s place, going 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles, one of which drove in a run, plus he scored twice and made several strong defensive plays while playing both second base and shortstop in the contest.
“Barnes did a great job,” assessed coach Shamblin. “We knew we could count on him. He’s a player.”
Senior shortstop Logan Longwith also stepped up big for “Shamblin’s Stallions” going 3-for-4 with a couple of doubles himself, plus he plated four teammates and accounted for two runs scored. The Tennessee Wesleyan signee also moved to the mound in the second inning and didn’t give up an earned run while striking out eight in six innings of relief work.
“We had planned for Logan to be first in relief, but we didn’t realize we’d need him so soon,” Shamblin explained. “He came in an shut them down and gave us a chance to get some back.”
Walker Valley burst out of the gate for four runs on four first-inning doubles, with Longwith getting the party started with a shot off the left-center field fence. After moving to third on a wild pitch, he scored on a Chris Caffrey sacrifice fly.
Junior Caleb Longley then drew a two-out walk before Barnes, Jake Ward and Bradley Smith ripped two-baggers of their own. Barnes and Ward’s shots went to almost the same place as Longwith’s, while Smith’s landed just inside the left field line.
The Pioneers returned the favor with a 6-spot an inning later. Longwith took the hill after the first six Warren County batters had reached base in the bottom of the second, including two that were still in scoring position when he took over. Although both runners scored, they were on a groundout and a sacrifice fly.
After getting in a bit of a jam to open the bottom of the third when he hit a batter, gave up a single and issued a four-pitch walk to load the bases, Longwith bowed his neck and struck out the next two before getting a nice play from Barnes on a groundout to end the threat.
Walker Valley pulled within one run of the lead in the top of the fourth when Longwith stroked a two-out single to plate fellow senior Jared Broome, who had reached on a fielder’s choice and stolen second base.
“That was a big run for us,” declared Shamblin. “When you’re only down by a run anything can happen. It got our confidence back.”
The Mustangs would explode for another four-run rally in the top of the sixth with Longwith once again delivering the big blow. After Ward, Josh Poole and Broome had each walked to load the sacks, Longwith emptied them with one swing of the bat as his second double of the contest rocketed into the left-center field gap once again. As it was in the opening inning, Caffrey brought home Longwith’s run (courtesy runner Austin Scott) with a sac fly.
Although Warren County picked up an unearned run in the bottom of the frame, Walker Valley tacked on the game’s final run in the seventh when Barnes doubled and scored on a single by Ward.
Longwith put the capper on the crown run in the bottom of the seventh with a little pop-up and back-to-back strikeouts to end the game.
“Warren County is a hot team (they upset Ooltewah in extra innings Monday) and proved to be a lot tougher than our scouting report said,” related Shamblin. “We’re glad to get out of here with a win and get to play at home Friday.”
“We have several guys who played in the substate game last year, so we shouldn’t be in awe of being here, but we know Tullahoma will be a tough team to beat,” he added. Towne, who suffered shoulder pain before and during Monday’s game, will be re-evaluated today to determine his availability for Friday night’s substate contest.
MUSTANGS 10, PIONEERS 7
Walker Valley 400 104 1 — 10 11 1
Warren County 060 001 0 — 7 10 0
WP: Logan Longwith (5-3) 6 IP, 8 Ks, 2 BB, 2 HBP, 5 H, 0 ER. LP: Bromley 5.1 IP 7 Ks, 4 BB, 1 HBP, 6 H, 8 ER. 2B: Logan Longwith 2, Kamren Barnes 2, Jake Ward, Bradley Smith (WV); Foster, Holmes (WC). RBI: Longwith 4, Chris Caffrey 2, Ward 2, Barnes, Smith (WV); Grandey 2, Green, Carden, Hutchins (WC). Highlights: Longwith 3-for-4, 4 RBI, 2 2B, 2 r; Barnes 2-for-4, 2 2B, 2 r; Matthew Simmons 2-for-4, (WV). Records: Walker Valley 26-11; Warren County 21-18.