Cleveland's Connor Mitchell and Polk County's Andrew Aldridge squared off in a battle that saw a total of nine hits fall safely into play. In the end, it was a Polk County hit— a two-run homer by Duncan Coffey— that gave the Wildcats a 4-2 win over the Blue Raiders.
"We needed that one bad. We hit a streak of playing some really bad baseball going back to our last game against Meigs County last week," said a happy Wildcats coach Michael Carter. "We played bad last night (Friday at Walker Valley). But we put all three phases of the game together today."
Cleveland hit the ball hard at times, but again struggled at the plate managing only two hits in the loss.
"There is an old saying, 'It's not how hard you hit the ball it's where you hit the ball,' and we just hit it right at them today," Blue Raiders coach Ted Carson said. "Our bats have gone on the skid. We were hot for about two weeks and they have gone silent. That's the biggest thing right now. We just need a little break that might get us out of it.”
"Our pitching was good. The first time they scored we should have made a play on a bunt. Then we hit a guy and they got the home run. Other than that, we got decent pitching. We've just got to score runs and we haven't been doing that," said Carson.
The Wildcats threw down the gauntlet in the bottom of the first, taking a 1-0 lead on a Coffey swinging bunt single and a Matt Hammons RBI double to a right-center field.
Polk added a second run in the second, taking advantage of a Cleveland walk with one out. The Wildcats loaded the bases on a Ben Norwood single and a Blue Raiders error. A fielder's choice made it a 2-0 game.
Cleveland came back in the top of the fifth to make it a 2-1 game. With two out, Nick Miller reached on a Wildcats’ miscue. A walk and followed by a Reed Allison single to right, cut the Polk lead in half.
The Blue Raiders came back in their next at bat to tie the game without the benefit of a hit. Two Polk County errors and a catcher's interference call led to run number two for Cleveland.
The Cleveland lead lasted all of three batters when the Wildcats came back to the dugout in the bottom of the sixth. With two outs under his belt, Mitchell thumped Polk's Justin Brown. Coffey stepped into the batter's box behind Brown and lifted a Mitchell offering high into the breeze that landed behind the right-center field fence. The blast put the Wildcats out front 4-2.
"Duncan Coffey, that's being clutch when you have to. He got a pitch up in the zone and got a good swing on it. We had to have it. They had the guts of their order coming up. If the game goes into extra innings, they are at the top of the order and we are at the bottom of ours. That was a good piece of clutch hitting," Carter praised.
Aldridge responded to the two-run spot with a fly ball to center and two ground balls to give the Wildcats the much needed win.
"Andrew Aldridge pitched his rear end off. He really did. He kept them off balance and we made the plays behind them when we had to. That's what we needed to have. We needed to put all three phases of the game together. When we do we're pretty good, when we don't we're pretty bad," said Carter.
"This says a lot about our guys, to take one on the chin last night and show up today with a better attitude wanting to win instead of hoping to win. It showed in their actions. They played good baseball.”
The Blue Raiders will be back to their District 5-AAA schedule Monday at Soddy-Daisy. Game two of the series will be at Cleveland on Tuesday.
The Wildcats travel to Sequoyah Monday and finish the set Tuesday in Benton. Thursday Polk will host Walker Valley and stay home Friday against Tellico.
"We've got a really big district series coming up Monday that will really help us or set us back. I'm happy to get back in the win column," said Carter.
WILDCATS 4, BLUE RAIDERS 2
Cleveland 000 011 0 — 2 2 2
Polk County 110 002 x — 4 8 3
WP: Andrew Aldridge. LP: Connor Mitchell. HR: Duncan Coffey (PC). 2B: Matt Hammons, Hunter Carter (PC). Other highlights: Coffey 3-4, Hammons 2-4. Records: Cleveland 10-13; Polk County 9-12-1.