The Bears had a pair of home runs and a no-hit pitching performance for the first three innings at Gene Lively Stadium, but a pair of safety squeeze bunts in the bottom of the sixth gave the host Pounders the runs they needed for a 5-4 victory.
“We started great. Ty (King) had a lot of command and did a good job, but the pitch count got him,” expressed Bradley head coach Travis Adams. “We let them (Central) get back in it. We didn’t give up. We fought back, but we just couldn’t get enough in the end.”
The loss means the Bears need to bounce back from a three-game skid as they face a big District 5-AAA home-and-home series Monday and Tuesday.
In a battle for first place in the district, Bradley (14-7, 6-2) will entertain ninth-ranked Ooltewah (16-8, 9-1) in the opener before traveling to the Owls’ home field the following evening.
Ooltewah comes into the key series after having a six-game winning streak snapped by a 7-6 loss at top-ranked Tullahoma Friday.
The Bears jumped on top early Friday evening as designated hitter Ryan Blair (.384 BA, .522 OBP) cranked his first home run of the season with a two-run shot over the left field wall.
The blast accounted for the senior’s 14th RBI of the season as junior Jacob Barnes (.327 BA, .408 OBP) had opened the top of the second inning with the first of his two singles on the evening.
Raising his season batting average to .500 (26-for-52), senior Jacob Maynard (.606 OBP) belted his third “jack” for his 20th RBI with one out in the top of the third.
With his offense staking him to a 3-0 lead, sophomore Ty King faced just one batter over the minimum in the first three frames.
However, a lead off walk in the fourth before he gave up a solid single, then a Bear fielding error loaded the bases and set the stage for the first Pounder run of the game.
King got the first out himself when he knocked down a hot shot back up the middle and fired to home for the force out. Another fielder’s choice followed to allow the run, but King then picked off the base runner at first base to end the threat.
Posting an impressive pitching line that included four innings pitched, a pair of strike outs, three free passes and just one earned run, King left the hill with a 3-1 lead.
Bradley had a chance to add to its advantage after Maynard and senior Caleb Pippenger (.291 BA, .416 OBP) led off the top of the fifth with back-to-back singles.
After a sacrifice bunt by Barnes moved the runners up, Blair was issued an intentional pass to load the sacks.
Chattanooga Central lefty Tristan Wood (4-0), who had come on in relief after Maynard singled, then struck out the next two Bears to prevent any runs from scoring.
Wood then cut the Bear lead in half in the bottom of the fifth with a one-out double, to plate teammate Matt Forte who had been plunked to open the at bat.
The Pounders (19-5) took the lead in the bottom of the sixth when the first three batters reached (a single and back-to-back walks), chasing the third Bear hurler after just eight pitches.
With bases loaded, Gabe Fomby squeezed one runner home to even the score and then a high chopper for an infield hit by Dylan Jones gave the hosts the lead.
Forte brought home an insurance run that later paid big dividends with another safety squeeze bunt.
Not willing to surrender, the Bears answered in the top seventh when Maynard reached on an error before Pippenger sliced a double into the right field corner to put two runners in scoring position.
Although he allowed Maynard to score on a wild pitch, Wood buckled down and struck out the next three batters to preserve the one-run victory.
Maynard and Blair both reached base three times for Bradley, while Pippenger and Barnes had a pair of hits apiece.
In the junior varsity action, Bradley claimed a 5-3 win with Chandler Hamilton earning the pitching victory with a half dozen strike outs in six innings on the hill.
Caleb Pace went 3-for-3 at the dish with a RBI, while Tanner Cox and Tyler Carpenter both went 2-for-3. Jordan Timmons cranked a home run for the Bears.
Bradley Central 021 000 1 — 4 2 1
Chattanooga Central 000 113 x — 5 6 2
WP: Tristan Wood (4-0) 3 IP, 6 Ks, 1 BB, 2 hits, 1 ER. LP: Chris Miller (3-1) 0 IP, 0 Ks, 2 BB, 1 hits, 3 ER. HR: Ryan Blair, Jacob Maynard (BC) 2B: Caleb Pippenger (BC); Wood (CC); RBI: Blair 2, Maynard (BC); Dylan Jones 2, Matt Forte, Wood (BC). Highlights: Maynard 2-3, HR, RBI, BB, 2 runs; Blair 1-2, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB, run; Pippenger 2-4, 2B; Jacob Barnes 2-3 (BC); Jones 2-3, 2 RBI (CC). Records: Bradley Central 14-7; Chattanooga Central 19-5.