Being able to still come out victorious when you’re not is a sign of a good team.
Despite outscoring cross-county rival Walker Valley 16-6 in a key District 5-AAA doubleheader Wednesday evening at the McKenzie Baseball Complex, Bradley Central head coach Travis Adams was quick to admit his Bears didn’t play their best games.
“We left some runs on the table and we made some mistakes, but we are finding a way to win games, despite not playing our best,” he remarked after the 4-2 and 12-4 wins. “These were big district wins for us, especially with East Hamilton and Soddy splitting their games.”
With the final regular season district games set for the first of next week, the Bears (14-9, 8-2 District 5-AAA) hold a one-game lead over both the Hurricanes (15-11, 7-3) and the Trojans (12-10, 7-3) for the top seed in the upcoming tournament.
Bradley will face fourth-place Ooltewah (14-9, 6-4) in the final home-and-home series Monday and Tuesday. The Owls split a twin bill with Cleveland High Wednesday night in Ooltewah.
The Bears will be one of the host teams for the annual Trojan Classic, taking on White County this evening at 7:30, Houston Friday at 6 p.m. and Coventant Christian Saturday morning at 11:30, after a special ceremony to honor the 1994 TSSAA State Champion Bears.
Walker Valley (8-17, 2-10) will travel to Englewood Friday to face Alcoa at 2 p.m. on the McMinn Central field.
Bears 4, Mustangs 2
After he struggled a bit to open Wednesday’s action, the Bear offense gave pitcher Ty King something to work with and the junior ace took care of the rest.
“Ty had a couple of rough spots, but once we get the lead our confidence grows with him on the mound,” commented Coach Adams.
Walker Valley struck first when Bradley Smith drew an game-opening walk and then stole second base before Elijah West drove him home with a single. After a base on balls to John Simmons, King settled down and got the next three batters out to get out of the jam.
The Bradley bats got started early as well with seniors Caleb Pace, Baylor Terrell and Jacob Barnes opening the bottom of the first with consecutive extra-base hits. Pace led off with a double before Terrell traded places with him to even the game at a run apiece. Barnes followed with a triple to plate Terrell and then scored himself a little later on a sacrifice fly by classmate Jordan Timmons.
The Mustangs added the second run of the contest in the top of the third, when King once again struggled a bit with walks to Simmons and Ben Clark, plus he plunked Stu Clark and gave up a run-scoring single to Brady Swafford to trim the lead to a single run, all with two outs.
The score stayed at 3-2 until the Bears added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth frame when senior Chandler Duggan walked, was bunted to second by Austin Calfee and then came around to score on Pace’s second double of the contest.
King recorded all three outs in the top of the seventh by strikeouts, bringing his total number of K’s to nine in the game and 56 on the season in 41 innings of work. The lanky right-hander is now 4-0 and boasts a 1.19 earned run average. King did issue seven free passes in the four-hitter.
Bears 12, Mustangs 4
The final score of the nightcap is misleading as the teams were even until the top of the seventh when the Bears exploded for an eight-run rally.
Both teams got a base runner to second base in the opening frame — Terrell roped a double for Bradley and Smith a single and advanced on a balk call for the Mustangs — but Walker Valley pitcher John Simmons struck out the other three batters he face, while Bear hurler Brett Standifer, notched a pair of K’s and got a ground ball to end the scoreless inning.
Bradley senior Logan Blackwell opened the top of the second with a single, while sophomore Kylar Lynn followed with a walk.
A passed ball moved the runners up a base before 10th-grader Tyler Carpenter stroked a double to put the game’s first two runs on the scoreboard. Carpenter scored a moment later when senior Cal Pickel laced a one-out single for a 3-0 Bear advantage.
The Bears added another run in the top of the fourth when Carpenter led off with an infield single, stole second and came around to score on back-to-back singles by Pickel and Pace.
Walker Valley was able to make the game interesting by taking advantage of some Bear miscues in the fifth frame with a trio of walks, a passed ball, a wild pitch and a two-out single and an error allowed Tucker Mendenhall, Caden Watson and West to all three circle the bases.
The Mustangs knotted the game in the bottom of the sixth when Swafford led off with a single, moved up on a passed ball and then scored on a fielding error.
Another walk and a single loaded the bases with just one out and caused Coach Adams to got to his bullpen for his third pitcher fo the contest.
Junior Chandler Hamilton came on in the tough situation.
With the bases packed and just one out in a tie ball game, Smith, the Mustang leadoff man, drilled a sinking shot to the right-center gap, but Pickel, the speedy Bear center fielder, was able to not only run the ball down, but fire a bullet to the plate to nail the base runner who had tagged up on the play, for an inning-ending double play.
“That play by Cal turned the momentum of the game,” declared Coach Adams. “They had come back to tie it and then not only did we get out of that without anybody else scoring, but were able to come in and put some runs on the board.”
While Adams was looking for just a go-ahead run or two, the Bears were able to put a huge 8-spot on the board thanks to some timely hits, four free passes by Mustang pitchers and a trio of Walker Valley errors.
“The wheels sort of came off for them (Walker) and we were able to take advantage,” proclaimed Coach Adams.
Pace led the rally off with a walk. After Terrell bunted the go-ahead run to second, Barnes reached on an error and senior Hunter Rogers stroked an RBI-single to right field.
Blackwell and Lynn followed with back-to-back walks, the latter of which drove in a run, before junior Tanner Cox plated a teammate with a hit.
A pitching change got the second out of the inning, but then Pickel was plunked to reload the bases before Pace drove home a pair with a single, and an error allowed another run to score. Terrell followed with an infield hit to bring Pickel in, while Pace also scored on the play thanks to a throwing error.
With a big lead to work with, Hamilton struck out three of the four batters he faced in the bottom of the seventh, to up his pitching record to 4-1 on the season.
Walker Valley 101 000 0 — 2 4 0
Bradley Central 300 001 x — 4 5 0
WP: Ty King (4-0) 7 IP, 9 Ks, 5 BB, 2 HBP, 4 hits, 3 ER; LP: Kyle Goins 3 IP, 0 Ks, 3 BB, 3 HBP, 4 hits, 3 ER. 3B: Jacob Barnes (BC); 2B: Caleb Pace 2, Baylor Terrell (BC); RBI: Elijah West, Brady Swafford (WV); Jordan Timmons, Terrell, Barnes Pace (BC); Highlights: Swafford 1-3, RBI; West 1-3, RBI (WV); Pace 2-4, 2 2B, RBI, run; Terrell 1-2, 2B, RBI, run; Barnes 1-4, 3B, RBI (BC). Records: Walker Valley 8-16, 2-9 District 5-AAA; Bradley Central 13-9, 7-2 District 5-AAA.
Bradley Central 030 100 8 — 12 13 3
Walker Valley 000 031 0 — 4 5 3
WP: Chandler Hamilton (4-1) 1.2 IP, 3 K’s, 0 BB, 0 hits, 0 ER; LP: John Simmons 6.1IP, 8 K’s, 5 BB, 1 HBP, 11 hits, 9 ER. 2B: Baylor Terrell, Tyler Carpenter (BC); John Simmons (WV); RBI: Simmons (WV); Carpenter 2, Cal Pickel, Caleb Pace 3, Hunter Rogers, Kylar Lynn, Tanner Cox, Terrell (BC); Highlights: Simmons 2-4, 2B, RBI; Brady Swafford 1-4, run; Andy Towne 1-1, run (WV); Carpenter 2-2, 2B, 2 RBIs, 2 run; Blackwell 2-3, HBP, BB, 2 runs; Pickel 2-3, HBP, RBI, run; Pace 2-4, 2 RBI, 2 runs; Terrell 2-4, 2B, RBI; Rogers 1-4, RBI, run Cox 1-2, RBI, 2 runs (BC). Records: Walker Valley 8-17, 2109 District 5-AAA; Bradley Central 14-9, 8-2 District 5-AAA.