The Cleveland Blue Raiders were desperately seeking to turn around their turnaround. After scorching the diamond in recent tournament baseball and district play, the Raiders made a 180-degree turn in their series last week against Chattanooga Central, struggling at the plate and on the field.
Cleveland (10-10, 4-2 District 5-AAA) had its work cut out to be sure in trying to get back on track, hosting District 5-AAA rival Ooltewah. The Owls came to Raider Field Monday night sporting a 14-7, 7-1 record.
After seven innings of solid baseball by both teams, including first-rate pitching performances by Thompson and Thompson, Ooltewah held off a late charge by Cleveland and claimed its eighth district win by a score of 2-1.
“It was a very good high school baseball game,” said Cleveland coach Ted Carson. “Both pitchers did a great job, there were some fine defensive plays on both sides. It was a great game.
Winning pitcher Zach Thompson gave up five hits to the Blue Raiders, fanned 13 and gave up only two walks. Cleveland’s Taylor Thompson took the hard-luck loss, allowing eight hits and whiffing eight Owls while handing out two free passes.
Ooltewah struck first in the top half of the third inning, taking a 1-0 lead on two singles against Cleveland starter Thompson. The Owls tried to put more runs up in the fourth, getting runners to second and third with no outs. Thompson reached back to strike out the next two Owls before walking the bases loaded. A ground ball to Ryan Adkins at second base ended the inning.
The Raiders threatened in the bottom of the fourth after a Kimsey Bell single to left field. But the hit paid no dividends as a fielder’s choice and a 6-4-3 double play ended the inning.
Both teams put runners on base in the fifth but no one crossed the plate.
In the top of the sixth Ooltewah’s Chase Morrisey made it a 2-1 game, taking Thomson deep with a homer over the 345-foot sign in right center. Cleveland left fielder Reed held the Owls in check with a sparkling, diving catch on a hard-hit ball off the bat of the next hitter. From there, Thompson got his seventh strikeout of the game and a ground ball to second to put the Owls away.
Trailing 2-0, the Raiders came to bat in the lower portion of the inning looking for some runs. Cleveland got off to a good start when Austin Dykes walked with one out and Bell beat out a swinging bunt to the left side of the mound. Jake Wyrick stepped in the box and made it a 2-1 game with a fly-ball single to center scoring Bell. The run was all the Raiders would be able to produce after Ooltewah hurler Zach Thompson got his third K of the inning to preserve the Owls’ lead.
Cleveland’s Thompson held Ooltewah in check in the top of the seventh inning, giving the Raiders a final shot at a win.
Allison, the defensive hero of the sixth inning for Cleveland, came through offensively for the Raiders with a lead-off single to center field. Bryson Murray sent Allison to second with a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt. Ooltewah got out number two on a nice catch on a drifting fly behind first and Thompson closed it out for the Owls with his 13th strikeout of the night.
“They didn’t give up. We came back and got a run in the sixth and started off good in the seventh. They made a good catch on a little bloop fly ball and we just didn’t get the run across,” said Carson. “We will go down there tomorrow and try again.”
OWLS 2, BLUE RAIDERS 1
Ooltewah 001 001 0 — 2 6 1
Cleveland 000 001 0 — 1 4 0
WP: Zach Thompson (O); LP: Taylor Thompson. HR: Chase Morrisey (O). Other highlights: Brody Binder 2-4 (O). Records: Ooltewah 15-7, 8-1 District 5-AAA; Cleveland 10-11, 4-3.