It took an incredible amount of work, pumping dozens of gallons of water off the field and a little bit of sunshine to finally get the Cleveland Blue Raiders on the baseball diamond to open their …
It took an incredible amount of work, pumping dozens of gallons of water off the field and a little bit of sunshine to finally get the Cleveland Blue Raiders on the baseball diamond to open their 2019 season.
But, it was definitely worth the wait and the effort of Cleveland coach Preston Scoggins and his coaches and players as the Blue Raiders staged an amazing late inning come-from-behind win, tying the game in the bottom of the seventh and winning it an inning later by a final score of 5-4 over the Rhea County Golden Eagles.
“This was a great way to start the season,” said a very happy Scoggins. “This club just doesn’t quit. We finally got a little momentum going there in the late innings and somehow, we found a way to win. That is a quality team (Rhea County) over there, but we didn’t quit and just kept playing and got the job done tonight.”
Although it wasn’t a district game, there was most definitely a sense of the old district rivalry as the game progressed toward the late innings.
Rhea County starting pitcher Ricky Guthrie was almost unhittable for five-plus innings, allowing only two hits along the way.
Meanwhile, Cleveland's starting hurler, Patrick Williams, was pitching just as well, but a pair of Raider miscues in the field in the third inning led to a pair of unearned runs and an RBI-double from Austin Brackett pushed the Rhea lead to 3-0.
Cleveland missed a golden opportunity in the fourth as a bases loaded, one-out situation folded quickly as a bunt turned into a double play as Rhea third baseman, Dusty Smith made a diving catch to end the rally.
A walk, a single, a hit batsman and a throwing error led to another Eagle run in the fifth for a 4-0 advantage.
Down to their last six outs and showing no signs of life, the Blue Raiders began their comeback. Ethan Jones and Ryan Lee reached base in the bottom of the sixth on a walk and a strikeout-wild pitch. Elvin Vargas then doubled in a run to put the home team on the board, but still trailing 4-1.
Jonathan Powers came on in the sixth in relief of Williams and completely shut the Rhea offense down for the next three innings, which, as it turned out, would be a key to the win.
“Jonathan came in and did an outstanding job in relief for us,” explained Scoggins. “We don’t win without him tonight.”
Sam Wyrick doubled into the left center-field gap to start the seventh inning rally. Wyrick later scored on a wild throw by the Eagles. A pair of walks to Jones and Hunter LeVert loaded the bases for Vargas, who promptly tied the game with a ringing two-run single to right and just like that, the Raiders had erased a four run deficit to force extra innings.
After Powers sat the Eagles down 1-2-3, in the top of the eighth, Cleveland would not be denied in the bottom of the frame. Robert Flowers drew a free pass to start the rally. Flowers stole second and moved to third on a groundout from Wyrick. Jack Pullen then slapped a slow-roller to first base. The throw home to cut off the winning run was a split-second late as Flower’s foot touched the plate just before the tag to end the contest in dramatic fashion.
Powers picked up the win for Cleveland (1-0) while Keaton Ray suffered the loss for the Eagles (0-1). Five different Eagles picked up one hit each while Vargas paced the Raiders with two of their four safeties and three RBIs.
at Raider Field
Rhea County00301000 — 4 5 3
Cleveland00000131 — 5 4 2
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