“It was a pretty clean game, an hour and 20 minutes, I think,” said a smiling Bears coach Travis Adams after the win. “There at the start it kind of took us a while to kind of get to him (McMinn starting pitcher Corbin Powers), but I felt very confident in (winning pitcher) Jacob (Maynard) on the mound. And he did exactly what we told him to do and that was pound the (strike) zone, go right at them and let the defense play. We did that and he did his job.”
The Bears — seeded No. 3 in the tournament — squandered their first chance to put a run on the board with runners on first and second after walks in the bottom of the third. A ground ball off the bat of Charles Chavis came to naught when runner’s interference was called for the third out leaving the game tied at 0-0.
Maynard made up for the slow start and missed opportunity in the third with a homer between the scoreboard and flagpole behind the left-field fence.
“When he hit the home run it kind of showed everybody we aren’t facing Superman right here. He was keeping us off balance early, but moving some runners and a couple of two-out hits made a difference,” said Adams. “Scoring from first on the double by Pippenger was another big play for us.”
Caleb Pippenger followed with a double to shallow center. Pippenger was replaced on the bag by Chandler Duggan. The Bears turned to the small ball game on a perfectly executed bunt by Jacob Barnes that moved Duggan to third. The courtesy runner scored on a throw to second on a Barnes steal to make it a 2-0 game.
Jacob Fowler stepped in and laid down another bunt single moving Barnes to third. The Bears lost a shot at another run when Barnes was cut down at the plate on a perfect throw from center on a fly ball. A ground ball ended the inning with the Bears up by two.
“Once we got that first run I felt like it gave our kids a little confidence and we got a couple of two out hits that added a couple more runs,” Adams said of the solid night for the Bears.
The Cherokees put runners on the bases with a hit batter and a single between a 3-6 ground ball in the fifth before Maynard ended the inning with a pair of strikeouts.
Maynard helped himself again in the lower half of the fifth with a two-out single to left center. Courtesy runner Austin Calfee took the place on Maynard and raced home when Pippenger stepped in and ripped his second double of the night. A Barnes single to center coupled with a McMinn error brought Pippenger home putting the Bears on top 4-0.
From there, The Cherokees managed only one more base runner as Maynard and the Bears locked up the win and head into Round 2.
“For us, it doesn’t matter who we play, it’s how we play and if we do the little things right usually we can score some runs and play defense,” Adams said. “In these games, we expect it to be tight and we expect to be in situations where we have to make every play. Tonight we definitely played good enough to win. It’s one game at a time.”
BEARS 4, CHEROKEES 0
McMinn County 000 000 0 — 0 2 1
Bradley Central 000 220 x — 4 7 0
WP: Jacob Maynard. LP: Corbin Powers. HR: Maynard (BC). 2B: Caleb Pippenger 2 (BC). Other highlights: Maynard 2-3, Pippenger 2-3, Jacob Barnes 2-3 (BC). Records: McMinn County 5-24; Bradley Central 20-11.