It was late game heroics and a walkoff single that helped the ’Stangs capture their second straight District 5-AAA win in as many nights.
According to Walker Valley head coach Joe Shamblin, the first two games of recent seasons have seen the Mustangs suffer splits; it’s a good tradition to break.
“This is a great start. To go 2-0 in the district is so important. The district is so well balanced that a two-win start is something to be thankful about. We’ll enjoy this one for a night and get back to the grind tomorrow,” expressed Shamblin.
Caleb Longley got things started for the home team when he notched an RBI to put the Mustangs on the board early.
That was all the room Walker Valley starting pitcher Jared Broome needed as he methodically worked his way through the Rhea county order, going six strong innings, fanning four and only giving up one earned run.
“I couldn’t say enough about Jared’s outing today. He gave us exactly what we had to have today against Rhea’s No. 1,” Shamblin said.
Yet, the Eagles weren’t going to pack it in, and in the top of the sixth they showed they still had plenty of fight left in them.
Rhea led off the inning with a two-base hit. A sacrifice bunt advanced the runner and a big sac fly brought him home to even the tally, and the Eagles weren’t finished.
With men on first and second and two outs Rhea’s batter laced a hard-hit grounder that was corralled to end the inning and the rally.
“We had a huge 5-2-3 double play that really turned the momentum around. We played a lot better defensively. This is what I’m expecting out of these guys this season,” Shamblin stated. “We played with a lot of composure today.”
The Mustangs got off to a good start on their side of the inning when Chris Caffrey led of with a walk. He was advanced when Rhea’s slinger issued a balk, but was ultimately left stranded on second.
Eagle batters were back at it in the top of the seventh when Rhea loaded the bases with one out, but a big double play caught the runner at home and at first to end the jam and keep things at a 1-1 deadlock.
Down to their final three outs Walker Valley need to make every at bat count. Josh Poole found his way aboard with a one-out single. Broome did his part by drawing a base on balls. Logan Longwith advanced both runners with a sacrifice.
With runners on second and third and two outs, Cody Clanton stepped up to the plate, and with the game on the line he laced a walk-off single to lift Walker Valley to a home opening victory and their second straight district win.
The Mustangs will keep the district train rolling as they hit the road to face off against Bradley Central Thursday with a start time slated for 5 p.m.
GOLDEN EAGLES 1, MUSTANGS 2
Rhea County 000 001 0 —1 8 0
Walker Valley 100 000 1 —2 6 0
WP: Logan Longwith 1 IP, 0 Ks, 0 BB, 1 H, 0 ER. 2B: Cody Clanton, John Simmons (WV). RBI: Clanton, Caleb Longley (WV). Records: Rhea O-2; Walker Valley 2-0.