ATHENS — A pitchers’ duel turned into a pitchers’ nightmare Wednesday evening at McMinn County High School as Bradley Central rallied to claim an extra-innings victory for the sweep of the District 5-AAA baseball series.
“We found a way to battle and take the lead but then we opened the door for them to tie it up,” expressed Bear head coach Travis Adams after the 8-4 win in Athens. “We’re lucky to come out of this one with a win.”
With the victory, Bradley (11-9) stays tied atop the district standings with a 6-2 mark in league play, the same as Soddy-Daisy (10-8, 6-2) and East Hamilton (14-6, 6-2), which completed a sweep of Ooltewah (11-7, 5-3) Wednesday evening with a 7-5 win.
The Bears will travel to Harrison this evening for a non-district matchup against Chattanooga Central (12-9), which leads the District 6-AA race with a 9-1 mark. After taking the weekend off, Bradley will be back to 5-AAA action Monday and Tuesday with a home-and-home series against county-rival Walker Valley (7-15, 1-8). The teams will play at the opener at the McKenzie Baseball Complex Monday and finish at Mike Turner Field.
Starting pitchers Brett Standifer (Bradley) and Jake Lingerfelt (McMinn) dominated the first six innings Wednesday. Getting just three hits during those frames, the Cherokees (7-12, 2-8) took advantage of a Bradley error and a passed ball for a run without benefit of a hit in the fourth, and then put the game’s first earned run on the scoreboard in the bottom of the sixth on a two-out double by Hayden Fesmire.
With the hosts up 2-0 going into the final frame of regulation play, the wheels fell off for both hurlers.
Pinch hitter Jeremiah Simms opened the Bear top half of the inning with a four-pitch walk. After a pop-out, senior Baylor Terrell roped a single to right field, before classmate Jacob Barnes drew another free pass to cause Cherokee head coach Matt Ray to bring out the hook.
With the sacks jammed, Bear senior Hunter Rogers greeted reliever Javon Simpson with a bloop single just inside the right-field line to even the score. After senior Logan Blackwell got plunked to reload the bases, junior Tyler Carpenter drew a two-out walk to force another run across and Rogers scored a moment later on a wild pitch.
Feeling good and facing the bottom two batters in the Tribe batting order, the Bears took the field with a 4-2 lead going into the bottom of the seventh, but their joy quickly turned to concern. After a fielding error allowed the first batter to reach base safely, Drew Godsey ripped a shot into the right-center field gap that Bear center fielder Cal Pickel made a near-diving catch of, but when he made contact with the ground the ball popped loose for a double.
“I had it in my glove, but couldn’t hold on when I hit the ground,” Pickel related.
With runners on second and third, Bradley looked like it was going to get the first out when the next McMinn batter hit a grounder, but the ball went through the infielder’s “wicket” to allow one run to score. After a tired Standifer walked the next batter, Coach Adams went to the pen for reliever Seth Lee.
The junior induced another ground ball for the first out of the inning, but then Godsey came in to even the score. With a pair of Cherokees still on base, Terrell saved the potential game-winning run from scoring with a hard-charging, diving catch of a sinking line drive before Lee shut the door with a strikeout to send the game to an extra inning.
The Bears once again took advantage of McMinn’s pitching woes as Pickel and senior Caleb Pace drew back-to-back walks to open the top of the eighth. Terrell then drove a hard single up the middle after faking a bunt to load the bases. Barnes then drew a four-pitch RBI-walk, forcing Coach Ray to call on his third pitcher of the night.
Rogers then drove home Pace with a groundout to the right side of the infield and Blackwell laid down a perfect squeeze bunt to score Terrell, plus he beat the throw to first for a single. While sophomore Kylar Lynn was drawing a base on balls, the Bears plated their final run on a double steal, with Blackwell swiping second and Barnes taking home.
The back-to-back 4-spots on the scoreboard were more than enough as Lee, despite giving up a pair of singles in the bottom of the eight, worked out of a jam and capped the comeback with a three-pitch strikeout for the final nail.
Terrell went 3-for-5 on the night, scoring twice, while Rogers was 2-for-5 and drove in a trio of teammates. Blackwell also had a pair of hits and an RBI.
Standifer went six innings on the hill, striking out five, giving out four free passes, scattering four hits and allowing just one earned run. Lee (2-3) earned the pitching victory with a pair of K’s and no walks or runs in two innings of work.
Lingerfelt went 6 1/3 innings with four strikeouts, giving up five hits and a half dozen walks. The three runs he allowed in the seventh inning were all earned. Godsey led the Tribe attack with a double in his two hits, plus he scored a run.
Bradley Central 000 000 44 — 8 8 3
McMinn County 000 101 20 — 4 6 1
WP: Seth Lee (2-3) 2 IP, 2 K’s, 0 BB, 2 hits, 0 ER; LP: Javon Simpson 0.2 IP, 1 K, 4 BB, 1 HBP, 2 hits, 5 ER. 2B: Hayden Fesmire, Drew Godsey (MC); RBIs: Hunter Rogers 3, Tyler Carpenter, Logan Blackwell, Jacob Barnes (BC); Fesmire, Colby Eaton (MC). Highlights: Baylor Terrell 3-5, 2 runs, diving catch; Rogers 2-5, 3 RBIs, run; Blackwell 2-4, RBI; Brett Standifer 6 IP, 5 K’s, 3 BB, 1 HBP, 4 hits, 1 ER (BC); Godsey 2-4, 2B, run (MC). Records: Bradley Central 11-9, 6-2 District 5-AAA; McMinn County 7-12, 2-8 District 5-AAA.