After falling to the Tribe 7-2 Thursday, the Class AA Wildcats exploded for 11 hits, plus took advantage of seven free passes and a trio of CHS errors for an 11-4 victory Friday at Raider Field.
Polk County had to overcome some mistakes of its own in the contest as a trio of Wildcat hurlers combined on a four-hit pitching effort, but the first two walked seven Raiders and “plunked” a half dozen more.
All four Cleveland runs were direct results of two-out free passes. Three of the runners reached base by being hit by pitches, and all four scores were driven in by a trio of walks and a hit batsman.
Altogether the two teams combined to use seven pitchers, six of which issued a total of 13 walks and seven “plunks,” plus there were five fielding errors committed in the near three-hour contest.
Cleveland (14-19) has wrapped up its regular season and will open District 5-AAA Tournament play at Soddy-Daisy High School Wednesday at 5 p.m. against Rhea County (10-14).
Mother Nature washed out Polk County’s planned game at Bradley Central Saturday, but the Wildcats (12-16-1) will continue their regular season ending swing through District 5-AAA with Ooltewah (20-11), visiting Benton Monday and McMinn County (4-20) Tuesday.
Earning a No. 2 seed in the District 5-AA Tournament, Polk will open a best-of-three series against third-seeded Meigs County Saturday in Benton.
The Wildcats opened the scoring Friday evening with senior Justin Brown leading off the game with a solid single up the middle. After he stole second, he then moved to third when classmate Andrew Aldridge reached on an error and senior Duncan Coffey brought the first run of the game home with a sacrifice fly to right field.
In the bottom of the opening frame, the Polk starter struck out the first Raider on three pitches and then got the second to ground out, but then the wheels fell off.
After senior Eric Powers stroked a double on the next pitch, three straight Raiders — seniors Justin Mullis and Michael Henderson, plus sophomore Joseph Martin — were hit by pitches, the last one tying the score. The home team took the lead when senior Ryan Adkins and junior Nick Miller drew two-out walks to drive in two more runs before the tide was stemmed with another three-pitch K.
The visitors were able to pull back even in the top of the second when Brown roped a two-out single to plate sophomore Nolan Bishop and junior Will Richmond.
The Raiders once again slipped ahead in the bottom of the third when a two-out “plunk” of Henderson came back to bite the Wildcats, when Adkins singled. Miller and junior Collin Tippett both walked.
Polk answered with a solo run after Hunter Carter led off the top of the fourth with a walk and later scored on a sac fly by Brown.
The Wildcats took the lead for good in the fifth frame when their first four batters reached and three of them circled the bases.
Junior Matt Hammonds led off the rally with a single. An error on a fielder’s choice ball hit by junior Carter Flowers, plus a walk to Hunter Carter, loaded the bases.
Freshman Ben Norwood then earned a RBI the hard way when he was hit by a pitch. Junior Chris Wimberley drove home another run with a ground ball, while Aldridge plated the final score with a two-out single.
The Polk bats heated up again in the final frame with consecutive hits by Norwood (double), Richmond (bunt single), Wimberley (RBI-infield single) and Brown (RBI-single) opened the top of the seventh. After two outs were recorded and a walk to Hammons reloaded the bases, Flowers came through with a solid single to right field to plate the final two runs of the contest.
Brown topped the Wildcat effort, not only going 3-for-3 at the plate, plus drawing a walk, stealing a base, driving in four runs and scoring twice, but he also earned the pitching victory despite walking two and “plunking” a pair. He gave up no hits and no runs in one inning of work on the hill.
Hammons came on to earn the save, working the final three scoreless innings on the bump, striking out two, giving up no free passes and just two hits.
Richmond went 3-for-4 at the dish for the visitors, scoring twice and swiping a bag, while Wimberley reached base four times with a single, walk, fielder’s choice and on an error, driving in a pair and scoring once.
Adkins was the top offense performer for the Raiders, getting on base all four times he batted with a single. An RBI-walk was hit by a pitch and reached on an error.
Martin and Miller both drew a pair of free passes, one of which plated a teammate. Jake Wyrick and Kimsey Bell both went 1-for-2 with singles, while Powers’ double rounded out the Cleveland hits.
Polk County 120 130 4 — 11 11 2
Cleveland 301 000 0 — 4 4 3
WP: Justin Brown 1 IP, 1 K, 2 BB, 2 HBP, 0 hits, 0 ER. LP: Jackson Earle 1 IP, 1 K, 4 BB, 2 hits, 3 ER. Save: Matt Hammons 3 IP, 2 Ks, 0 BB, 2 hits, 0 ER. 2B: Ben Norwood (PC); Eric Powers (C). RBI: Brown 4, Carter Flowers 2, Chris Wimberley 2, Andrew Aldridge, Norwood, Duncan Coffey (PC); Joseph Martin, Ryan Adkins, Nick Miller, Colin Tippett. Highlights: Brown 3-3, BB, SB, 4 RBI, 2 r; Will Richmond 3-4, 2 r, SB; Carter 1-3, 2 BB, 2 r; Norwood 1-3, 2B, HBP, RBI, 2 r; Wimberley 1-4, BB, 2 RBI, r, reached on error and fielder’s choice (PC); Adkins 1-2, BB, HBP, reached on error, RBI; Jake Wyrick 1-2; Kimsey Bell 1-2; Martin 2 HBP, RBI, r; Miller 2 BB, RBI; Justin Mullis BB, HBP, r; Michael Henderson BB, HBP, r (C). Records: Polk County 12-16-1; Cleveland 14-19.