The senior right-hander answered the critics quickly with a pair of easy infield pop-ups and a strikeout in a nine-pitch opening at bat on his way to a three-hit, 5-1 victory over cross-county rival Bradley Central.
“After the Ooltewah game I wanted to get back out there and put it behind me,” commented Towne of his lone loss of the season Saturday night when the Owls touched him up for 11 hits, five walks and six earned runs in just 5 2/3 innings. Towne had not given up an earned run the entire regular season.
“While I was warming up before the game, my adrenaline kicked in and I felt good,” he added of his 10-strikeout, no walk, complete-game effort Tuesday. “I was able to keep them off balance and use the corners to move the ball around.”
“I knew Bobby would ‘bulldog’ it out. That’s the kind of kid he is,” praised Mustang coach Joe Shamblin.
The victory not only advances Walker Valley (23-9) into tonight’s district championship game in a rematch with Ooltewah (23-11) at 5 p.m., but it also earns the Mustangs to the Region 3-AAA tournament for the third straight year.
Shamblin’s “Stallions” will have to defeat the Owls twice this evening to be able to host a region opener, otherwise they will be heading to either Cookeville (25-7) or Warren County (20-16).
“The main thing is, we are playing on Monday,” commented coach Shamblin. “We’d much rather beat Ooltewah and get to host rather than drive to Middle Tennessee.”
Tuesday’s outcome continued a five-year run of Walker Valley defeating the Bears on their home field, while Bradley has done the same to the Mustangs during the same span.
After Towne breezed through he top of the first, Walker Valley took advantage of a pair of Bear errors to plate the game’s first run in the bottom of the frame.
Matthew Simmons beat out a one-out infield hit, then moved to second when Chris Caffrey followed with a single to left. When Caleb Longley hit a grounder to third, Caffrey was forced out at second but the try for the double play sailed into the Bear dugout, allowing Simmons to score.
After a subsequent fielding error allowed another base runner, Bradley starter Jordan Whitmire (7-4) struck out the next four Mustang batters. However that would be the last outs he would record as a Bear as he hit Towne to open the top of the third, then after a third Bradley error, Caffrey drew a walk to load the bases and Longley worked an RBI-base on balls.
Senior Jonathan Hodges, who picked up the save in Monday’s win over Soddy-Daisy, came on and got two quick outs before Bradley Smith ripped a double just over the outstretched arm of a Bradley outfielder to bring in Caffrey and Longley. Hodges struck out the next batter and faced just one man over the minimum the rest of the way.
“Jordan (Whitmire) was pitching his third game in six days and even though he started strong you could see he was tired there in the third,” assessed Bear coach Travis Adams. “I hated to pull him so quick, but Towne was looking good and we were already two runs down. That two-out double was a back breaker.”
“We had such a great game the night before (a 7-1 win with 13 hits over Soddy-Daisy), but for some reason we slipped back to some old habits at the plate,” he added. “Towne had something to do with that. He was throwing his curve for strikes.”
Both teams picked up a run in the sixth inning when Bear senior Dylan Johnston, who had doubled in his previous at bat, was plunked, stole second, moved to third on a groundout and scored when classmate Chase Wiseman grounded out to short.
Walker Valley scored when Jake Ward led off with a single up the middle. Pinch runner Austin Scott moved to second on a wild pitch, to third on a groundout and came home on the back end of a double steal.
“We made the most of our four hits and their defense helped us out a couple of times,” remarked Shamblin. “Our defense played well, without errors, to back up Bobby (Towne’s) great performance.”
“They (WV) drew first blood and we didn’t respond,” stated coach Adams, whose Bears finished with a 24-14 mark. “We had our chances but we didn’t capitalize.”
“I’m proud of the way we fought throughout the season,” he added. “This has been a special group of seniors who have worked year-round to get better. I can’t say enough good things about them.“
MUSTANGS 5, BEARS 1
Bradley Central 000 001 0— 1 3 3
Walker Valley 103 001 x — 5 4 0
WP: Bobby Towne (8-1) 7 IP, 10 Ks, 0 BB, 1 HBP, 3 H, 1 ER. LP: Jordan Whitmire (7-4) 2 IP, 4 Ks, 2 BB, 1 HBP, 2 H, 3 ER. 3B: Baylor Terrell (BC). 2B: Dylan Johnston, (BC); Bradley Smith (WV). RBI: Chase Wiseman (BC); Smith 2,Caleb Longley (WV). Highlights: Terrell 1-for-2, 3B; Johnston 1-for-2, 2B, HBP, r; Jonathan Hodges 4 IP, 3 Ks, 1 BB, 2 H, 1 HBP, 1 ER (BC); Smith 1-for-3, 2B, 2 RBI; Chris Caffrey 1-for-2, BB; Matthew Simmons 1-for-3, reached on error, r; Bobby Towne 2 HBP, r (WV). Records: Bradley 24-14; Walker Valley 23-9.