The Bradley Central baseball bats exploded early and junior Ty King did the rest as the Bears blanked visiting McMinn County Tuesday evening to stay tied atop the District 5-AAA race.
“We put together a big inning and got a good lead, then Ty (King) set the tone and our guys played good defense behind him,” declared Bradley head coach Travis Adams after the 7-0 victory.
Now 10-9 on the season and more importantly 5-2 in district play, the Bears are knotted with Soddy-Daisy (10-8, 6-2), East Hamilton (13-6, 5-2) and Ooltewah (10-6, 5-2) in the race for first place in 5-AAA with just 2 1/2 weeks left in the season.
Bradley split their earlier series with the Trojans and Hurricanes and will face the Owls in the final week of the regular season.
The Bears also have a pair of league games against Walker Valley on the slate next week.
“Looking down the road, it’s going to be a dogfight for the top,” Coach Adams remarked. “McMinn will be tough up there tomorrow night (Wednesday).”
Tonight the Bears will travel to Athens to complete the home-and-home series with the Cherokees (7-11, 2-7), with a 7 p.m. first pitch.
Also this evening East Hamilton will entertain Ooltewah in another key 5-AAA battle.
Tuesday’s tangle with the Tribe at the Toby McKenzie Baseball Complex turned in favor of the home team early on.
After neither team scored in the opening inning, Bradley got things rolling in the bottom of the second when the first half dozen Bear batters reached base safely on five hits and an error, with each accounting for a run.
Senior Logan Blackwell started the rally that saw 10 Bears bat with a solid single to right field. Classmate Jordan Timmons followed with an infield hit before junior Tanner Cox laid down a bunt, but reached first safely thanks to an error to load the sacks.
Seniors Chandler Duggan and Cal Pickel both followed with hard singles to left to plate a teammate apiece before classmate Caleb Pace cleared the bases with an opposite field double.
Two batters later, senior Jacob Barnes brought Pace home with the sixth hit of the inning.
Bradley added the game’s only other run in the fifth frame when Timmons led off with a single. Courtesy runner Charlie Hammonds moved to third when sophomore Tyler Carpenter doubled to the right-center field gap and then scored on a two-out error on a hard shot hit by Pace.
For his part, King improved to 3-0 on the mound this season, striking out seven and walking three in the two-hit shutout effort.
After getting the first two batters to fly out to Pickel in center field, King gave up a single and walked a batter before getting out of the inning with a ground ball.
McMinn’s only other hit was a lead-off single in the second frame which was quickly erased when the next batter bunted a sinking liner that Bear third baseman Hunter Rogers gloved and then threw to first to doubled off the base runner.
After the second batter of the third inning reached on Bradley’s lone fielding error, King set down a dozen Cherokees in a row, including a half dozen on strikes.
His string was broken by back-to-back, one-out walks in the top of the seventh, but the Bear defense preserved the shutout with its second double play of the night when second baseman Duggan snagged a line drive and threw to shortstop Carpenter to catch the base runner off the bag and close out the victory.
Timmons and Barnes led the Bradley offense with two singles apiece, while Pace and Carpenter notched the game’s only extra-base hits.
Even with nine hits, reaching on five Cherokee errors, plus a pair of free passes, the Bears left seven runners on base, at least one in each inning.
“We were able to string together some hits in the second inning rally, but we still missed out on some other opportunities to score,” Coach Adams assessed. “We are still fighting to be consistent at the plate.”
Bears 11, Cherokees 3
The Bradley JV bats were ringing as well Tuesday evening in an 11-3 victory over the Tribe.
Sophomore Jeremiah Simms was a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate with a double, plus he scored twice. Junior Austin Calfee blasted a home run and ripped a triple for a trio of RBIs, while sophomore Charlie Hammonds also went 2-for-3 with three “ribbies.”
Jacob Moses, also a 10th grader, earned the pitching victory with a complete-game effort, striking out a half dozen and while walking seven and surrendering three earned runs.
McMinn County 000 000 0 — 0 2 5
Bradley Central 060 010 x — 7 9 1
WP: Ty King (3-0) 7 IP, 7 K’s, 3 BB, 2 hits, 0 ER; LP: Jake White (2-3) 5 IP, 2 K’s, 1 BB, 8 hits, 5 ER. 2B: Caleb Pace, Tyler Carpenter (BC); RBIs: Pace 3, Jacob Barnes, Chandler Duggan, Cal Pickel (BC). Highlights: Jordan Timmons 2-3; Barnes 2-4, RBI; Carpenter 1-1, 2B, run; Pickel 1-2, RBI run; Duggan 1-3, RBI, run; Pace 1-4, 2B, 3 RBIs, run (BC). Records: McMinn County 7-11, 2-7 District 5-AAA; Bradley Central 10-9, 5-2 District 5-AAA.