Mustangs down Wildcats again

By JOE CANNON joe.cannon@clevelandbanner.com
Posted 3/18/17

BENTON — Friday’s rematch of the season opener between the Walker Valley and Polk County baseball teams wasn’t the dominating performance one coach had seen all week from his team, while the …

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Mustangs down Wildcats again

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BENTON — Friday’s rematch of the season opener between the Walker Valley and Polk County baseball teams wasn’t the dominating performance one coach had seen all week from his team, while the other considered it a good measuring stick of his squad’s improvement.

“This wasn’t what I had hoped, especially at the start,” remarked Mustang wrangler Joe Shamblin of the 7-3 victory. “We’ve had a busy week, so we played a few different kids to see what they could do. It was a much different game than when we played earlier (an 8-0 WV win).”

“We struck out 12 times Monday, only four times today. We went from five errors to none today. We scored three runs against a very strong team today, so I’m pleased with what I saw,” assessed Wildcat head coach Jon Tucker, whose team notched their first victory of the season with a 14-2 run-rule win Thursday at Copper Basin.

“We were able to stay with them all but that one half inning (a four-run Mustang rally in the top of the 6th) that really cost us. Not bad considering were are down five guys due to sickness and injuries. We only dressed 13 players today.

“We were able to make it a competitive game. I like playing Walker Valley; it feels like home,” commented Tucker, son of longtime Lady Mustang coach David Tucker and a former hoop standout for the Mustangs.

Now 4-0 on the season, including a pair of key District 5-AAA wins over Cleveland High, Walker Valley will jump back into the conference race Monday when defending district champion Bradley Central comes to Mike Turner Field.

“Bradley is always tough,” declared Coach Shamblin. “They are still the district champs until somebody dethrones them, and that’s what we hope to do.”

The Bears were also unbeaten in a trio of games, including a district win over McMinn County, going into Saturday’s tournament play in Sevierville. The county rivals will meet again Tuesday evening, weather permitting, at the McKenzie Baseball Complex to complete the 5-AAA home-and-home format.

Polk County will travel to Cleveland Monday to play at Tennessee Christian Preparatory School at 5 p.m.

The Wildcats will return home Tuesday as McMinn County comes to Benton.

The Mustangs got on the scoreboard quickly Friday afternoon as Cleveland State signee Tucker Mendenhall led off the game with a single, stole second, moved the third on a hit by junior Blake Peterson and then scored on a double steal.

Polk evened things up in the bottom of the first when leadoff man Gavin Miles reached on an error, stole second and then came in to score on a two-out double by Kendrick Tinker.

Walker Valley went back up after Jacob Weir was plunked to open the top of the second and courtesy runner Mason Oran came on to steal second, was moved to third on a ground ball to the right side by Coleman McCoy before coming home on a ground out by Brandon Runion.

Neither team scored again until the fifth, when the Mustangs got back-to-back two-out hits from seniors Grayson Rountree and Jacob McCall. Rountree singled to left, then advanced to second on a balk. McCall came on as a pinch hitter and shot a little flare into short center field to drive in the run.

The Herd broke into a stampede in their next at bat, scoring four runs on just one hit. After the leadoff batter struck out, the next eight Stallions reached base, a half dozen of them by base on balls.

Peterson, who went 3-for-4 on the day, drove in the first two runs with a triple over the right fielder’s head. He scored a moment later himself on a double steal after a walk to Brady Swafford.

After two more freebies reloaded the sacks, Swafford came home on a wild pitch to wrap up the Mustang scoring for the day.

The host Wildcats were able to get two of those runs back in the bottom of the frame when Miles and Nate Waters drew back-to-back walks to open the at bat and later scored on a single by Dakota Clark and a ground out by Cam Black.

Both teams went down in order in the final frame to give the game its final tally.

Along with Peterson’s potent bat, Rountree reached base four times for the visitors with a double, single and two free passes, plus he stole two bases and scored a run.

Mendenhall not only went 2-for-5 with a trio of thefts and two runs scored, but also pulled in a half dozen put outs in center field.

On the mound, Weir started and went the first five innings to pick up the win, striking out three and sitting down 15 of the final 17 batters he faced.

“Jake (Weir) did an awesome job today,” praised Coach Shamblin. “He’s a senior, but he’s first-year pitcher that did a good job last summer in learning how to pitch. (Sophomore Harrison) Price came on and did a good job of setting them down in order in the seventh as well.

“We played good defense (only one error), and we took advantage of what they (Polk) gave us,” he added.

Like they had in Monday’s opener, Polk managed just a trio of hits, with Luke Burrows joining Clark and Tinker with safeties.

GAME SUMMARY

Walker Valley 110 014 0 — 7 9 1

Polk County 100 002 0 — 3 3 0

WP: Jacob Weir (1-0) 5.0 IP, 3 Ks, 1 BB, 1 hit, 0 ER; LP: Dakota Clark (0-1) 5.2 IP, 6 Ks, 4 BB, 1 HBP, 8 hits, 5 ER. 3B: Blake Peterson (WV). 2B: Grayson Rountree (WV); Kendrick Tinker (PC). RBI: Peterson 2, Jacob McCall, Brandon Runion (WV); Dakota Clark, Cam Black, Tinker (PC). Highlights: Peterson 3-4, 3B, 2 RBI, 2 SB, run; Rountree 2-2, 2 BB, 2B, 2 SB, run; Jacob Weir 1-2, HBP, BB; Tucker Mendenhall 2-5, 3 SB, 2 runs; McCall 1-1, BB, RBI; Harrison Price 1 IP, 0 hits, 0 ER (WV); Gavin Miles 2 BB, RE, 2 SB, run; Tinker 1-3, 2B, RBI; Dakota Clark 1-3, RBI; Luke Burrows 1-3 (PC). LOB: WV 10; PC 5. Records: Walker Valley 3-0; Polk County 1-2.

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