Walker Valley had its way for the most part against Blue Raiders ace Taylor Thompson in the early going Wednesday night at Raider Field, but in the end Thompson pitched his way to a win over the struggling Mustangs after a big sixth inning turned a 3-1 deficit into an 8-3 Cleveland win.
Thompson gave up six hits, but struck out 14 batters for the Blue Raiders, who trailed 3-1 after the Mustangs broke a 1-1 tie with two runs in the top of the third.
“That’s probably the most hits I’ve seen off Taylor in a row all year long, but he battled back. He didn’t have his best stuff and he got in a little bit of trouble at the end. But he finished it off and got a great double play to end it,” said Blue Raiders coach Ted Carson.
The Mustangs (7-15, 1-8 District 5-AAA) got to Thompson for three hits in their first at bat with Dillan Church ripping an RBI double to center field to put Walker Valley out front 1-0.
Cleveland (6-7, 3-7) countered with an RBI double down the right-field line by David Queen.
Thompson fanned the side in the upper half of the second and Walker Valley’s Kyle Goins got a 5-4-3 double play to end Cleveland’s bid in the bottom of the frame.
Brady Swafford led off the Walker Valley top of the third with a double down the line just out of reach of Queen at third base. Minutes later, Swafford slipped under the tag by Queen at third after getting caught between the bags on the left side of the infield. Swafford trotted home on a two-out double to off the wall in left-center by John Simmons. Church brought Simmons home with the inning’s third double, again to left center to make it a 3-1 game.
“We came with a good approach I thought, tonight. Our kids were ready to hit and took it as a challenge to get to go against Cleveland’s best. They wanted to let people know we’re not that bad,” said Mustangs coach Joe Shamblin.
Both teams left the bases loaded in the fifth with Thompson and Goins each getting a K to end the inning.
Thompson picked up his 13th strikeout of the game in the top of the sixth just in front of the Blue Raider run explosion in the bottom of the inning.
With two outs and the bases loaded, Shamblin made the walk to the mound, lifting Goins in favor of Jake Broome. The usually solid Broome walked the only two batter he faced, prompting another visit by Shamblin who put the leather in the hands of Zach Wilcox. Shamblin could only watch as Wilcox hit the first batter he faced to bring home the third run of the inning for the Blue Raiders. Cleveland catcher Hunter Oliver made it a 7-3 game with a bases-clearing triple to left center. Queen, the 11th batter of the inning for Cleveland, made it 8-3 with an RBI single to right center.
“The biggest thing about it was there were two outs. Dykes led off with a double then we had the big hit by Hunter that sort of put it out of reach,” Carson said of the seven-run half inning.
In all, the Blue Raiders roughed up Walker Valley with four hits and were helped out with two walks and two hit batters.
Thompson got in a bit of trouble in the top of the seventh with a pair of walks, but got a 6-4-3 double play to end the game.
“We really needed this. It gives us a little pick-me-up. We’ve played hard all year and played hard today. We kept battling back even when we got down some. I’m really proud of the kids,” said Carson.
Shamblin said the scrambling Mustangs must find a way to find closure and preserve the lead in critical situations.
“Looking back, we do,” Mustangs coach Joe Shamblin said when asked of he wished he had stayed with Goins. “But, that’s easier said than done. Jake’s been a rock for us late in the game. He’s gotten us out of some tough situations all year when we’ve brought him in. We were confident he would get it done tonight, it just didn’t happen.
“Somebody on this team has got to find a way to slam the door shut on some things or get big hits in crucial situations to break games open; we could have done that tonight and didn’t do it. Somebody’s got to stop the bleeding for us.”
BLUE RAIDERS 8, MUSTANGS 3
Walker Valley 102 000 0 — 3 8 1
Cleveland 100 007 x — 8 9 1
WP: Taylor Thompson. LP: Kyle Goins. 3B: Hunter Oliver (C). 2B: John Simmons, Dillan Church 2, Brady Swafford (WV); David Queen, Austin Dykes, Derek Nichols (C). Highlights: Bradley Smith 2-3, Church 2-3 (WV); Jay McIntire 2-3, Queen 2-4, Nichols 2-2. Records: Walker Valley 7-15, 1-8; Cleveland 6-7, 3-7.