COOKEVILLE — "Sometimes that light at the end of the tunnel is a train."— Charles BarkleyWhile 11 seniors experienced the pain of high school baseball coming to an end, Walker Valley High School …
— Charles Barkley
While 11 seniors experienced the pain of high school baseball coming to an end, Walker Valley High School head coach Joe Shamblin reminded his group that life is about much more than what the lights on the scoreboard read.
The sting of defeat was felt after a 7-5 road loss to Cookeville in the Region 3-AAA semifinals, but the brotherhood was strong as the Mustangs closed out the season with prayer and a senior meeting.
"Life is precious," Coach Shamblin said. "It is important for us all to realize that in the long run the most important thing we can do is love each other and God. A lot of these seniors I have known since they were little. Getting to be a part of their life was something I am extremely grateful for."
In a win-or-go-home contest, the Cavaliers mustered enough strength and received major contributions from recent Belmont baseball signee Joshua South.
A year ago in the same Monday region "must-win" battle it was South who came out on the down side of a 7-2 loss to Walker Valley.
With both starting pitchers the same, Cookeville's ace found revenge with a complete game victory as he struck out 10 batters and drove in a game-high three runs.
The Mustangs got to South early, however, putting forth a big three-run second inning.
Senior slugger Caleb Lawhon led all with a three-hit performance and doubled to lead off the second and third frames.
Blake Peterson and Hunter Schoenhoff stayed back on fastballs and ripped opposite field RBI singles while an error by the CHS shortstop also allowed another run. Walker Valley led 3-1.
The game of baseball reared its ugly side to the Mustangs in the bottom half of the second as two errors on the infield were committed.
Those blunders proved costly, as all four runs scored by the Cavs were unearned and were posted to Lee University baseball signee Matthew Pigg's final line.
A two-out single by Ben Ball that went just past the diving Kevin Bowerman brought in two for a 5-3 lead for the home team.
"Our guys had the effort tonight, but we let Cookeville off the hook," Shamblin said. "We went up and rattled their pitcher a little and had a lot of energy in our dugout. It all seemed to be in place. However, we made a couple mistakes we couldn't overcome."
South gritted his teeth after being knocked around in the second, posting four straight scoreless innings and striking out the side in the fourth on just 11 pitches.
The Cavs (23-6) put pressure on the Mustang defense and stole five bases on the night to help generate even more scoring opportunities.
Walker Valley threatened in the top of the seventh when senior catcher Hunter Shamblin laced a single to right field past the first baseman to plate Kolten Gibson, who had gotten on via an infield single.
Shamblin drove in two runs on a night his side outhit the Cavs, 7-5, but his team could not live to see another game.
Cookeville will host the Region 3-AAA championship against Bradley Central Wednesday night at 7 p.m. CST.
"These guys are all special to me," Shamblin said. "Getting to coach my son has been a great experience for me. He aimed to please and tried to do everything I asked him to. These last four years have been a joy."
The bullpen combination of sophomore southpaws Jake Smith and Ethan Hailey provided a glimpse of what is to come for the headline rotation next year for Walker Valley (19-13). The two combined for 2 1/3 innings of hitless ball with five strikeouts.
Pigg fanned five batters to finish with 94 strikeouts this season over 49 2/3 innings. He was charged with three earned runs.
"We have a lot of holes to fill next year," Shamblin said. "Our guys need to get in the weight room and cages as much as possible. We have some solid pitching coming back next year, but we will need a lot of positions in the field to be consumed."
The Mustangs will have to fill the positions of catcher, first base, second base, third base, left field and center field.
Lawhon urges his teammates to make the most of the opportunity.
"I didn't want this to be my last game, so I laid it out there and that's how anybody should play," WV's leader in RBIs this season said. "It's important to work hard at your craft and put the time in. I'm OK with this being the end if it is, because I put it all out there for my brothers."
Walker Valley;030;010;1 — 5 7 3
Cookeville;140;200;x — 7 5 2
WP: Joshua South 7 IP 7 H 2 BB HBP 5 R 3 ER 10 K. LP: Matthew Pigg 3 2/3 IP 5 H 3 BB 2 HBP 7 R 3 ER 5 K. 2B: Caleb Lawhon 2, Jordan Munck (WV); South, Smith (CHS); Highlights: Caleb Lawhon 3-for-4 R, Hunter Shamblin 1-for-4 2 RBIs, Blake Peterson 1-for-3 RBI R, Kolten Gibson 1-for-2 HBP BB R, Hunter Schoenhoff 1-3 RBI, Dylan Allender R (WV); 5 stolen bases Cookeville, South 3 RBIs, Ben Ball 2 RBIs, Jacob Sparks RBI, Will Arnett RBI. Records: Walker Valley 19-13; Cookeville 23-6.
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