Banner Sports Editor
There’s no rest for the weary, the old saying goes. Maybe a little rest, but not much.
After a full weekend of tournament action, the Walker Valley Mustangs and Cleveland Blue Raiders took a day off to celebrate Easter before returning to the baseball field Monday at Walker Valley.
“I don’t know. Maybe (they were tired), I don’t know. It’s baseball and the major leaguers play 162 games a year. I gave them Easter Sunday off so they should have had quite a bit of time to rest yesterday,” said disappointed Mustangs coach Joe Shamblin.
Shamblin chose to go with junior ace Kamren Barnes in the District 5-AAA battle. The Walker Valley righty was pitted against Cleveland junior Taylor Thompson, who tossed a masterful game for the Blue Raiders in a 7-3 Cleveland win.
Thompson (2-1) went the distance for the Raiders striking out 12 Mustangs and giving up three walks and only four hits in 110 pitches. Barnes (3-1) fanned four Raiders and gave up 12 hits in six innings of work along with one free pass in 92 pitches.
“Taylor Thompson did a fantastic job on the mound. He got off to a slow start in the first inning but after that settled down and pitched a brilliant game,” said Cleveland coach Ted Carson.
Carson will send Jake Wyrick to the mound tonight for the Blue Raiders in Game 2 of the district series. He will go against Walker Valley’s John Simmons. The first pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Raider Field.
After getting the first out to open the game, Barnes was touched for four consecutive singles that put the Blue Raiders (8-8, 2-2 District 5-AAA) on top 1-0. The Mustangs’ starter minimized the potential damage, getting a 1-2-3 double play to end the top of the first.
“He (Barnes) wasn’t what we are used to, but they hit it good and I’m not taking anything away from them. He left a lot of balls over the plate that he usually doesn’t leave over the plate,” Shamblin said of his big righty.
Walker Valley (9-7, 5-1) missed its first chance to tie the game after Logan Melton reached first on a strikeout and wild pitch. The Mustangs still had a chance to get on the board with two outs when Caleb Longley reached on a single and found third on a fielder’s choice. Designated hitter “Big Bad” John Simmons walked to load the bases and the Mustangs took a 2-1 lead when Drew Lyles singled to left. Chase Prince worked Thompson for a walk to load the bases for the second time in the inning and a single to right field off the bat of Bradley Smith made it a 3-1 game.
The Raiders came back in the top of the second to load the bases with a hit batsman, a Michael Henderson single and a two-out Walker Valley error. The miscue quickly came back to haunt the Mustangs when Jake Wyrick emptied the bases on a single to put Cleveland up 4-3.
“We ran the bases well, we got good, timely hits and we battled at the plate. The first inning we had the one batter reach on a strikeout and that may have been the only error of the night for us. I’d like to see us continue to play like that,” said Carson.
The top of the fourth proved to be another productive inning for Cleveland. The Raiders added two more runs on hits by Jay McIntire, Thompson and Eric Powers. Walker Valley produced a single by Logan Melton in the bottom half of the inning, but a third-out fly ball to right left him stranded.
After a scoreless fifth, the Raiders struck again with a two-out RBI double to left-center field off the bat of Thompson. The shot scored Austin Dykes who had earlier reached on a single. Thompson struck out the side in the bottom of the fifth and Cleveland held a 7-3 lead headed into the seventh.
“We had some good hits. We are continuing to swing the bats well after our tournament this weekend where we swung the bats real well,” Carson said.
“It is a big district win for us. After losing our first two we came back and got a couple from Rhea County and this one helps out a lot. We’ve just got to go and keep battling like we can.”
Shamblin brought Prince to the mound in the top of the seventh in relief of Barnes and the senior held the Raiders scoreless, giving up one hit.
Thompson got the first two outs of the bottom of the seventh on strikeouts and locked up the win with a soft fly to short.
“We just got outplayed all the way around. They outpitched us and outplayed us on defense. When that happens you are in for a long night,” said Shamblin.
“We’ve got to get back on our feet, dust ourselves off and hopefully we can get a split.”
Cleveland 130 201 0 — 7 13 3
Walker Valley 300 000 0 — 3 4 3
WP: Taylor Thompson (2-1); LP: Kamren Barnes (3-1). 2B: Thompson (C). Other highlights: Jake Wyrick 2-3, Thompson 3-4, Eric Powers 3-4 (C). Records: Cleveland 9-9, 3-2 District 5-AAA; Walker Valley 9-8, 5-2.