ATHENS — Late afternoon drizzle greeted the Cleveland Raiders as they took the diamond in Athens for a District 5-AAA showdown against the McMinn County Cherokees.
Early Cherokee runs proved to be the difference in the ball game, as Cleveland was unable to rally late and was forced to board the bus on the tail end of a 4-3 defeat.
Taylor Thompson got the start for the Raiders and despite a rocky first inning he settled down and was able to pitch out of some late game jams and keep his team in the contest.
McMinn did jump out early though, plating three runs in the bottom half of the first and taking an early grasp on the game’s momentum.
Cleveland tried to answer in the second when Jake Moats laced a one out double. Conor Hale followed with a bloop single that dropped into shallow center field, and Reed Allison loaded the bases with a walk.
Yet, it was all for naught as McMinn’s Matt Lingerfelt utilized what could be described as a generous strike zone to retire the next two Raider batters.
“It was a tough night for the hitters. It was a little frustrating. We had some opportunities, but we didn’t put the ball in play. Early we got some good, hard hits. Taylor gave a pretty good effort. That’s just the way it is sometimes,” stated Raider head coach Ted Carson.
Raider bats made a comeback in the third when Tyler Shugart led off the inning with a single and was quickly followed by a Jake Wyrick single. Robert Parr reached on a fielder’s choice, but the attempt to stretch it to a double play led to an error and a Cleveland run.
Jesse Jones knocked the third Raider single of the game and Moats rounded things out with an RBI sacrifice fly that brought the Raiders within a run.
The rally continued in the fourth when Nick Miller got things started with a one out single. Michael Henderson notched another Cleveland single, and Shugart loaded the bases with a walk.
Wyrick capitalized with a sacrifice groundout to brought the tying run across the plate before the inning ended.
McMinn had one last surge in them though, and in the bottom half of the fifth pushed across the go-ahead run to grab a 4-3 lead.
Cleveland had a good shot in the sixth to claw its way back into the ballgame after Miller kicked things off with a base on balls.
Henderson moved the pinch runner, Tyler Croft, into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. The Cherokees brought a relief man in at that point, and he “took advantage” of getting to face his first batter by promptly plunking Shugart.
With one out Wyrick loaded the bases with a single, but it all came crashing down when McMinn turned an inning ending double play to remove the threat and effectively finish the game.
The Raiders will try to even the series tonight as they make their way to Raider Field for a 7 o’clock start against McMinn.
CHEROKEES 4, RAIDERS 3
Cleveland 002 100 0 — 3 7 1
McMinn County 300 010 0 — 4 8 1
WP: Matt Lingerfelt 6.3 IP, 5 Ks, 3 BB, 6 H, 2 ER. LP: Taylor Thompson 6 IP, 7 Ks, 2 BB, 8 H, 3 ER. 2B: Jake Moats (CHS). RBI: Moats, Jake Wyrick (CHS). Records: Cleveland 9-12, 3-6 5-AAA; McMinn County 3-18, 2-7 5-AAA.