The Mustangs’ strong postseason run came to a halt in stunning fashion as Knoxville Bearden exploded for 19 runs and 23 hits in a double payback for a Wednesday loss.
“We just ran out of steam,” proclaimed Walker Valley head coach Joe Shamblin. “We woke up this morning feeling great about our chances (to make the state final), but now we’re heading home disappointed. That’s baseball.”
After falling to the Mustangs in a 5-4 the day before, Bearden turned a 1-0 deficit after the first four innings Thursday into a 4-1 lead with one swing of the bat and took off from there.
The grand slam by Ronnie Broyles in the fifth inning of the opening game highlighted an 11-1 victory by the Bulldogs. The hot hitting continued in the “if necessary” game with a six-run opening inning rally on their way to an 8-2 final.
Bearden (32-13) will tangle with fifth-ranked Arlington (32-11) in today’s title game after the Wildcats remained unbeaten in the event with a 14-3 pasting of Riverdale in the other semifinal matchup.
Walker Valley struck first Thursday when junior catcher Josh Poole stroked a two-out double in the second inning to plate teammate Kamren Barnes, who had walked and advanced to second on a balk.
Although Bearden had gotten a base runner on in each of its first four at bats, none had come around to score.
In the top of the fifth however, the first three Bulldogs reached base, but Mustang starter Jared Broome got the next batter to pop out and then struck out the following hitter.
Broome appeared to be getting out of the jam when he had Broyles down 1-2 in the count, but the Bearden clean up batter fought off seven straight pitches. Broome brought the next pitch high and tight and somehow Broyles made an awkward swing that lifted the ball to left field for what at first appeared to be a lazy fly ball. However, the ball kept carrying and just cleared the left field wall.
Bearden tacked on two more runs in the top of the sixth on a two-out double by Lance Thomas and the dam busted in the seventh as the Bulldogs scored five times on just three hits to seal the deal.
Walker Valley managed just five hits in the opener as Jake Ward went 2-for-3 with a double, while Cleveland State signee Chris Caffrey and Tennessee Wesleyan bound Logan Longwith each singled to go along with Poole ‘s double.
Things went from bad to worse in the second game as 10 of the first 11 Bearden batters reached base, with a half dozen circling the bases.
The Mustangs picked up a single run in the second inning when junior Caleb Longley drew a leadoff walk and came around to score when Longwith ripped a double down the left field line.
The Bulldogs were able to pick up a couple of runs in the bottom of the third, with Walker Valley scoring the day’s final run in the seventh frame as senior Logan Hindman reached on an infield hit and advanced to second on a throwing error. Classmate Jake Young came on as a pinch runner and scored a few moments later when Poole plated him on a ground out.
Walker Valley managed only four hits in the second game as both sophomore Bradley Smith and Cleveland State signee Bobby Towne each had fifth inning singles, but were left stranded.
“While I’m not happy with the way it ended, I’m proud of the way our guys have battled throughout the season,” praised coach Shamblin. “At one point we were in an elimination game with Bradley in the district tournament and here we advanced all the way to the Final Four of the state.”
“We have improved each year and went a little farther, so hopefully next season we will be able to take the next step,” he added. “We are losing a great group of seniors, but we have some good players coming back to build around.”
Walker Valley finishes the season with a 29-13 record, that included a 10-2 mark in District 5-AAA play to win the regular season title.
TSSAA State Semifinals
BULLDOGS 8, MUSTANGS 2
Walker Valley 010 000 1 — 2 4 1
Bearden 602 000 x — 8 12 1
WP: Ty Hill 7 IP, 2 Ks, 4 H, 1 BB, 1 ER. LP: Logan Longwith (5-4) 0.2 IP, 0 Ks, 4 BB, 1 HBP, 5 H, 5 ER. 2B: Logan Longwith (WV). RBI: Longwith, Josh Poole (WV); Conner Cameron 2, Ronnie Broyles 2, Derek Lance, Trey York, Elijah Helton (B). Records: Walker Valley 29-13; Bearden 32-13.
BULLDOGS 11, MUSTANGS 1
Bearden 000 042 5 — 11 11 0
Walker Valley 010 000 0 — 1 5 2
WP: Neil Gore 7 IP, 3 Ks, 5 H, 4 BB, 1 HBP, 1 ER. LP: Jared Broome (7-2) 6.2 IP, 4 Ks, 3 BB, 12 H, 7 ER. HR: Ronnie Broyles (B). 2B: Lance Thomas, Trey York, Elijah Helton (B); Jake Ward, Josh Poole (WV). RBI: Thomas 5, Broyles 4, Jordan Wall, Neil Gore (B); Poole (WV).