Someone once said, “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” The mercury fell below the 40-degree mark Thursday night and Walker Valley was seeking to pay back cross-county rival Bradley Central for a loss earlier this week.
They did in spades.
Eleven hits, including a pair of shots over the left-center field wall at the McKenzie Baseball Complex, led the Mustangs to a 13-3 “run-rule” victory over the Bears to earn a split in the District 5-AAA series that delayed twice by Mother Nature. Bradley won the first game 7-2 Tuesday evening in the north end of the county.
“We hit the ball tonight like we’ve expected to do all season but it hadn’t come together yet,” commented Mustang head coach Joe Shamblin. “Hopefully winning like this tonight will give us some momentum to get things going in the right direction.”
Walker Valley is 6-8-1 on the season and 3-3 in district play, while the Bears slip to 7-6 overall and 1-3 in 5-AAA play.
The Mustangs will take the weekend off before facing Cumberland County in a non-district home-and-home series Monday and Tuesday. The Jets will visit Mike Turner Field Monday for a 7 p.m. start and Walker Valley will make the trek up the mountain Tuesday evening.
Bradley will get right back at it this evening with a 5 p.m. contest as Polk County comes calling. Due to a mid-week tournament start in Memphis, the Bears have adjusted their district series with Ooltewah to a Sunday afternoon (3 p.m.) game at BCHS and a 7 p.m. contest Monday evening in Ooltewah.
The Mustangs started Thursday evening’s battle by drawing back-to-back walks before junior Chris Caffrey set off the first bomb of the night, depositing it on the hood of a Bear team member’s truck in the parking lot.
The three-run blast was Caffrey’s second of the season and was followed by another walk to University of Tennessee signee Brandon Zajac, marking the end of the night for the Bradley starter. Zajac scored the fourth run of the inning a few batters latter on a sacrifice fly by teammate Colton Ward.
The Bears appeared ready to answer when it was their turn to bat, loading the bases with just one out, but the trio was stranded, which was a recurring theme throughout the night for the home team.
Shamblin’s Stallions tacked on another run when senior Cody Suttles and sophomore Caleb Longley opened the top of the third with consecutive singles. Junior Logan Longwith drove in Suttles with the third hit of the inning.
The boys from the north end of the county stretched their advantage to 8-0 when they put a 3-spot on the board in their next at bat.
Caffrey led things off with a single, stole second and scored when Suttles singled again. Longley completed the back-to-back hit combination for the second straight inning, with he and Suttles both scoring on wild pitches later in the frame.
The Bears finally got on the board in the bottom of the fourth when senior Joshua Lee drew a walk, moved up on a pair of wild pitches and then scored on a ground out to the left side by classmate Hayden Robinson.
Bradley tacked on a second run of the inning when sophomore Brently White and senior Trevor Jones drew back-to-back walks. White came around to score after Chase Wiseman singled and the throw in from the outfield got away.
Walker Valley capped off the shortened victory with two-out, five-run rally in the top of the fifth. Junior Jared Broome walked and later scored on a balk. Zajac stroked a run-scoring single before Suttles drilled a double to bring him around.
Longley completed the barrage with his first varsity home run, a two-run blast over the left-center field fence for his third hit while reaching base all four time in the contest.
Suttles also went 3-for-4 in the victory and scored three times, while Caffrey reached base four times, including a pair of walks and scored a trio of runs.
Bradley added a run in the bottom of the fifth when sophomore Caleb Pippenger “took on for the team” to open the last chance.
His courtesy runner, Matt Cook, advanced to second when sophomore Jacob Maynard followed with a single. Two wild pitches later, Cook scored and Maynard stood on third with nobody out but as the was the story of the night for the Black-and-Gold, the next two batters struck out and the third hit a little dribbler back to the pitcher for their second straight 13-3 loss in the second game of a district series.
“We got runners on base but we just didn’t get the hits when we needed them,” a disappointed Travis Adams stated after watching his Bears leave 10 runners on base.
Mustang pitchers gave up eight free passes and the defense committed three errors, but Bradley was limited to just three hits on the night — singles by Jones, Wiseman and Maynard.
Senior Houston Spencer (2-0) tossed the first four innings for the for the Navy-and-Gold, striking out six and giving up just two hits. He did walk seven and surrender a pair of earned runs before giving way to Logan Hindman for the final inning. The junior struck out two and hit one while putting the game on ice.
MUSTANGS 13, BEARS 3
Walker Valley 401 35 — 13 11 3
Bradley Central 100 21 — 3 3 3
WP: Houston Spencer (2-0) 4 IP, 6 Ks, 7 BB, 2 H, 2 ER. LP: Nate Mills (2-2) 0 IP, 0 Ks, 3 BB, 1 H, 4 ER. HR: Chris Caffrey, Caleb Longley (WV). 2B: Cody Suttles (WV). RBI: Caffrey 3, Longley 2, Colton Ward 2, Suttles 2, Logan Longwith, Brandon Zajac (WV); Hayden Robinson (BC). Records: Bradley Central 7-6, 1-3 District 5-AAA; Walker Valley 6-8-1, 3-3 District 5-AAA.