“Typically kids get a little nervy on elimination games, but I feel like we did enough. We got some two-out hits and forced their hand. But if you hang around these kinds of games long enough, sometimes it’s not you doing the right thing, it’s the other team doing the wrong thing. They kind of hit some guys and walked some guys and opened the door for us,” said Bears coach Travis Adams.
“We’ve had cabin fever for the past four days with all the rain. The guys finally got a chance to get some at bats and play some defense. They felt the pressure these types of games bring and I think that’s good for us.”
Bradley Central got off to a bit of an inauspicious start after Hunter McClendon’s second inning homer put the Golden Eagles up 1-0.
The Bears used small ball to answer back in the bottom of the inning.
Cal Pickel led off with a walk, moving to second on a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt by Logan Blackwell. Pickel raced home to tie the game at 1-1 when Baylor Terrell laced a one-out single to left-center field.
Bradley Central mounted another threat in the bottom of the third on two-out singles by Caleb Pippenger and Blackwell. After reaching third on Blackwell’s hit to right center, Pippenger headed toward the plate on a passed ball only to be caught short. Rhea ended the threat with a tag on the rundown.
The Bears made some more noise in the fourth, scoring one more run on hits by Blackwell, Terrell and Brently White.
The Eagles led off the top of the fifth with a single and stolen base to put the tying run in scoring position with nobody out. Miller got out No. 1 with a strikeout before walking the second base runner of the inning. The base on balls sent Adams to the mound in favor of right-handed reliever Jacob Maynard.
Miller ended his evening with four Ks and four walks while giving up three hits and two earned runs.
“Going into this game our mindset was for Chris (Miller) to go out there and eat up some innings, and he did. I was very proud of his effort. We were kind of saving Jacob to close it and that part worked out,” Adams said.
Maynard got a fly to left before the Eagles tied the game with flair single just over the head of second baseman White. A nice play on a tag by Bears’ first baseman Jacob Barnes on a throw up the line at first ended the inning with the score knotted 2-2.
Maynard opened the Bradley portion of the fifth with a double to left center only to be picked off second for the second out. The Bears stayed in the inning when Barnes took leather to the ribs and trotted to first. Pickel followed suit minutes later, walking to first after being hit on the shoulder. The HBP prompted a pitching change by the Eagles with two out and two on. Both runners moved up on a passed ball before the third hit batter of the inning loaded the bases. All three were left stranded when reliever Jalen Smith got a fly ball to center to end the inning preserving the 2-2 tie.
The Bears went back into small ball mode in the bottom of the sixth and broke the game open.
Jacob Fowler reached on a Rhea error and pinch runner Caleb Pace hustled to second on a passed ball. Pace raced to third on a bunt single by White, putting runners on the corners with no outs.
The next hit batter of the game loaded the bases for Bradley with one out. This time, the Bears were able to take advantage of a slow roller to short scoring the go-ahead run and leaving the bases loaded still with just a single out.
A bad throw to the plate on another ground ball to short put the Bears up 4-2 with the pads still full. A Pickel sacrifice fly made it a 5-2 game. The Bears opened the gap on a Ryan Blair single and scored another run with a roller single to take a 7-2 lead. The second pitching change of the game for the Eagles did little to stop the outburst as a walk again loaded the bases. Rhea finally got a strikeout to end the carnage but not before the Bears put six runs on the board.
The Eagles flirted with a comeback in the seventh getting the first two runners on with a single and walk. A 1-3 double play on an attempted sacrifice bunt squashed any Eagles chance.
“We had some base running mistakes that cost us some runs. It was a tight game before we opened it up in the sixth,” said the Bears coach.
“I’m proud of them for fighting and getting through it. We lived to play another day. I feel like it gives us a bit of momentum. Now it will be either Cleveland or Walker Valley, a Bradley County deal. But, we will be ready to go. Everybody is rested and we are kind of where we need to be,” said Adams.
Adams plans to do what needs to be done to advance to the championship final but said he needs to keep a close eye on his ammunition.
“Winning one game is great, but if we shoot all our bullets then we go to a gunfight empty handed. We are going to try and mix and match a little bit and save some arms for another one. But, we’re not going to save everything, we’ve got to get through it. It will be a dogfight I’m sure,” said Adams.
BEARS 8, GOLDEN EAGLES 2
Rhea County 010 100 0 — 2 7 3
Bradley Central 010 106 x — 8 11 1
WP: Jacob Maynard.LP: Jalen Smith. HR: Hunter McClendon (RC). Other Highlights: Smith 2-4 (RC); Bayor Terrell 3-4, 2 RBIs, Brentley White 2-3, run, RBI, Caleb Pippenger , RBI, run, Logan Blackwell, RBI, run, Records: Rhea County 12-16, Bradley Central 21-12.