There was “no joy in Mudville” for Bradley County on the opening day of the Trojan Classic as all three local teams struck out.
With the McKenzie Baseball Complex one of four sites for the tournament, Bradley Central got to play at home and Walker Valley didn’t have to travel far, but both came out on the short end of close decisions Thursday evening.
The Mustangs went a couple of extra innings before surrendering a 5-4 heartbreaker to Knox Halls, while the Bears got their bats going but had trouble scoring runs in a 4-1 loss to Covenant Christian (Ala.).
Playing in a different pool, Cleveland High also struggled, getting doubled-up by co-host Chattanooga Central and District 5-AAA rival McMinn County, in a shutout. The Raiders fell 6-3 to the Purple Pounders and 9-0 to the Cherokees.
All three local teams will be back in action today. Scheduled to play each other in Thursday’s opener before Mother Nature had something to say about that, Bradley Central and Walker Valley battled this morning instead.
The Bears were to then turn around and face Knox Halls at 1 p.m., while the Mustangs are to take on Covenant Christian at 7 this evening. Cleveland has a 4 p.m. appointment against Lincoln County back in Harrison.
Consolation, plus a four-team championship playoff, will be held Saturday but the matchups and times won’t be announced until after tonight’s action is complete.
Red Devils 5,
Eight of the game’s nine runs were scored in the first four innings preceding four scoreless innings by a pair of hard-throwing relief pitchers.
The contest came down to an unearned run in the bottom of the ninth when the Halls leadoff man reached on the third Mustang error of the game and scored a moment later as the chalk flew down the right field line on a hard single.
Walker Valley (12-11) struck first in the hard-fought duel, Bobby Towne leading the game off with a solid single, stealing second and scoring on a two-out hit by University of Tennessee signee Brandon Zajac.
The boys from Knoxville answered in the bottom of the inning as the first two Red Devils got on thanks to back-to-back Mustang errors. Bryce Beeler followed with a two-run single and then scored himself when teammate Grant Painter roped a hit.
Walker Valley went right back to work when sophomore Caleb Longley opened the top of the second with a single to right field and came around to score when Logan Longwith stoked a one-out double.
Once again getting the leadoff batter on, the Mustangs took the led when Chris Caffrey opened the top of the third with a single and then scored on a double by Zajac. Longley brought Zajac in with a groundout a couple of batters later.
Halls (17-4) tied the game up in the bottom of the fourth when Painter blasted a solo shot into the parking lot just over the left field wall.
The scoring then dried up as Zajac took the mound in the bottom of the fifth and struck out eight in four innings of relief work. The big left-hander allowed just two hits and walked just one while keeping the Red Devils off the board.
Halls countered with a hard-throwing southpaw of its own as Painter took the hill in the top of the seventh and sat down all nine batters he faced, three by strikeout.
With the tournament time limit looming, Halls was able to once again take advantage of a Mustang fielding miscue as pinch hitter Devin Long opened the bottom of the ninth by reaching base on an error. After he was sacrificed to second, right-handed hitting Jordan Hardy smoked a shot that hopped the first base bag and nailed the line just beyond to bring Long in with the game-winner.
Zajac led the nine-hit Mustang offense, going 3-for-5 with his double and a pair of RBIs, while Colton Ward helped out with a pair of hits. Towne also reached base twice with a walk to go along with his lead-off single.
Bradley got plenty of hits (8) Thursday night but couldn’t covert them to runs as the Bears dropped their seventh straight game and 11th of their last dozen.
Leaving nine runners stranded, including the bases-load in the bottom of the seventh, timely hitting has been a problem for Coach Travis Adams’ young team this season.
Bradley (10-17) got on the board first after freshman Logan Blackwell got his first varsity hit to lead off the bottom of the third. After being bunted to second, he scored on a two-out single by senior Kody Ward.
Covenant Christian (23-5) answered in the top of the fourth when Jake Nelson helped his own cause with a two-run shot over the left field wall.
The boys from Huntsville, Ala., picked up solo runs in their next two at bats, the first on a run-scoring double by Robby Seemann and the other on a Bear error.
Nelson went the distance on the bump for the Falcons, striking out nine, walking a pair, plus hitting one, while surrendering eight hits.
Ward reached base three times in the contest thanks to a pair of singles and a Falcon error.
Sophomore Jacob Fowler made the most of an opportunity to start, going 2-for-3 at the plate, while classmate Caleb Pippenger reached base all three times he batted, with a pair of singles and a fielder’s choice.
Playing on the same field where they won the Purple Pounder classic a couple of weeks ago, Cleveland managed just a half dozen hits in 14 innings of play Thursday.
Chattanooga Central (14-13) was able to even their four battles against the Raiders by blasting out to a 6-0 lead in the first inning behind home runs from Dylan Jones and Jake Brock.
Cleveland (9-11) was able to chip away at the lead with a pair of runs in the fourth and a solo score in the sixth frame, but that was as close as they would come.
Pounder hurler Colton Morgan improved to 3-0 on the season, getting five strikeouts while firing a two-hitter.
Coach Ted Carson’s crew once again found themselves in a big hole early against McMinn County, as the Tribe scored five in the first and two more in the second inning. The boys from Athens rounded out their scoring with a pair of sixth-inning runs.
Cleveland managed just four hits in the game but was unable to get any of the base runners around to home.
RED DEVILS 5, MUSTANGS 4 (9)
Walker Valley 112 000 000 — 4 9 3
Knox Halls 300 100 001 — 5 6 2
WP: Grant Painter 3 IP, 3 Ks, 0 BB, 0 H, 0 ER. LP: Jared Broome .1 IP, 0 K, 1 H, 0 ER. HR: Grant Painter (H). 2B: Logan Longwith, Brandon Zajac (WV). RBI: Zajac 2, Longwith, Caleb Longley (WV); Bryce Beeler 2, Painter 2, Jordan Hardy (H). Records: Walker Valley 12-11; Knox Halls 17-4.
FALCONS 4, BEARS 1
Covenant Christian 000 211 0 — 4 8 1
Bradley Central 001 000 0 — 1 8 2
WP: Jake Nelson 7 IP, 9 Ks, 2 BB, 1 HBP, 8 H, 1 ER. LP: Nate Mills 5.2 IP, 7 Ks, 4 BB, 7 H, 3 ER. HR: Jake Nelson (CC). 2B: Robby Seemann (CC). RBI: Nelson 2, Seemann (CC); Kody Ward (BC). Records: Covenant Christian 23-5; Bradley Central 10-17.
POUNDERS 6, RAIDERS 3
Cleveland 000 201 0 — 3 2 0
Chattanooga Central 600 000 x — 6 6 2
WP: Colton Morgan (3-0) 5 Ks. LP: Dylan Humble. HR: Dylan Jones, Jake Brock (CC). Records: Cleveland 9-11; Chattanooga Central 14-13.
CHEROKEES 9, RAIDERS 0
Cleveland 000 000 0 — 0 4
McMinn County 520 002 x — 9
Records: Cleveland 9-12.