ATHENS — The Walker Valley Mustangs made the short trip up Highway 11 to Athens on a beautiful Monday afternoon for a baseball game. They were there to open a big District 5-AAA series with the …
ATHENS — The Walker Valley Mustangs made the short trip up Highway 11 to Athens on a beautiful Monday afternoon for a baseball game. They were there to open a big District 5-AAA series with the McMinn County Cherokees. When it was all said and done, it was worth the trip, as the visitors rode back home with a 2-1 win tucked neatly in their saddlebags.
”I feel like the boys have gained a little confidence and have finally realized that they can compete and win in our district,” explained Mustang coach Joe Shamblin. “We’re getting better defensively and we’re making progress. We’ve just got to keep building on this effort tonight.”
The Mustangs’ Jake Smith and McMinn’s Andrew Ronne took turns putting zeros on the scoreboard for much of the affair, as pitching dominated the game from first out to last.
Walker Valley (8-13, 2-9 District 5-AAA) gave Smith all the run support he would need in the Mustangs' very first turn at the plate. Jordan Munck got things started by coaxing a lead-off walk. He stole second and moved to third on a groundout. Ethan Hailey knocked him in with a roller to second for a 1-0 lead.
Parker Caldwell was hit by a pitch with two outs in the frame and moved to third on a ringing double from Dylan Allender. A couple of pitches later, Caldwell touched home plate on a wild pitch to push the Walker Valley lead to 2-0.
Smith faced one batter over the minimum through three innings, before running into a Cherokee rally in the bottom of the fourth. Emery Peterson reached on an infield hit and moved to second on a pickoff throw that got away at first. Peterson stole third and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Hayden Frank to cut the Walker Valley lead in half, 2-1.
Smith righted the ship, allowing only two base runners over the final three innings, including a 1-2-3 seventh to secure the win.
Smith was in charge from beginning to end on the hill for the Mustangs, as the tall lefty scattered three hits, struck out seven and issued only two free passes over his complete game, seven-inning performance.
“Jake did an awesome job, I think they squared one ball up on him tonight,” said Shamblin. “We made a couple of mistakes in that inning where they scored their run or they might not have got it. He gave up three hits and it easily could have been one if we make the plays behind him.”
Hits were a rare commodity on Monday night. Allender had two of Walker Valley’s four hits, while three different Cherokees had a single each. Ronne took the loss for McMinn (11-14, 3-8) while Will Grimmett retired six of the seven hitters he faced in relief.
Walker Valley will return to Mike Turner Field today, for game two of the home-and-home district series with the Cherokees, starting at 7 p.m.
Mustangs 200 000 0 — 2 4 1
Cherokees 000 100 0 — 1 3 0
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