By PATRICK MacCOON
Just two games into the season, Caleb Lawhon has become a nightmare for opposing pitchers.The powerful lefty and five-hole hitter for Walker Valley was doused with water and pummeled at the bottom of …
Just two games into the season, Caleb Lawhon has become a nightmare for opposing pitchers.
The powerful lefty and five-hole hitter for Walker Valley was doused with water and pummeled at the bottom of a dogpile after his game-winning, two-run single to right field beat Ooltewah 9-8.
The walk-off scene in the bottom of the eighth at Mike Turner Field was one of pure ecstasy.
"It's great getting a hot bat at the beginning of the season," said Lawhon, who is 6-for-8 with a home run and eight RBIs on the new campaign. "This was a great win and we had to believe in ourselves. We had to stay calm and chip away. The dogpile may hurt tomorrow, but right now I am just so hyped up and happy."
It was celebration reminiscent of a postseason championship victory and a win long awaited.
The Owls took all four meetings between the two ballclubs last season, including the district and region championships. They had also won eight straight games coming into both's District 5-AAA opener.
"It could have got mental for us if we hadn't of won this game tonight," said WVHS head coach Joe Shamblin. "I told them, 'Four times in a row – that's enough.' Our guys kept fighting. Today showed what they are made of."
As former Yankee legend and Hall of Famer Yogi Berra said, "Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical," a theme that would be repeated throughout the game.
Sophomore right fielder Ethan Hailey set up the extra-inning heroics when his team was down to its final out.
Hailey found his pitch, a belt-high fastball that he crushed deep over the center fielder's head. Lawhon scored easily from second, while senior Kolten Gibson raced with his helmet flying off to dive head first past the tag to tie things at 7-all.
Mental toughness was shown at the plate as well as in the field and on the bump for WV, as it fought all the way back despite trailing 6-0 after southpaw starter Trevor Wiggs' two-run double in the second inning.
While Wiggs cruised into the fourth with his lone hit allowed an infield single to speedster Kevin Bowerman.
However, mental lapses in the field by Ooltewah helped make a statement victory possible as it gave the home team six outs to play with in the fourth.
WV designated hitter Logan Cross came through with a full-count base hit on the ninth pitch of his at-bat to set up runners on first and third with no outs after Lawhon started the inning with an opposite field single.
A chopper to third base soon after looked to set up a chance for a double play, but a throw home instead saw Lawhon dive under the tag for the 'Stangs first run.
Hailey's first of three RBIs came on a groundout to shortstop, while a wild throw from shortstop plated another and a bloop hit by Hunter Shamblin landed in shallow center to suddenly trim the Owls lead to 6-4.
While Lawhon's obviously unsustainable season pace of 120 RBIs and a pair of three-hit outings, which includes a grand slam, has taken center stage early his defense came through big late.
In the top of the fifth with two outs and one runner on, Lawhon scooped the third out of the inning with Ooltewah into the top of its lineup. His diving stop in the sixth also ended the inning, as he beat Wiggs to the base by a split-second.
In between web gems, Walker Valley flashed its power at the plate.
Senior Blake Peterson rocketed a fastball offering from Wiggs that traveled every bit as far as 380 feet over the left field wall to make for a 6-5 deficit.
Not only did Peterson smack his eighth career blast after leading the district last season in round trippers, but he showed off his cannon of an arm too.
Preventing the Owls from going ahead 9-7 on a sacrifice fly, he lasered in a one-hopper to Shamblin, who just swiped the runners foot in time for a double play.
"Defensively we played a great game I thought," Shamblin said. "Caleb made two big plays. Blake's catch and throw was sharp and it was a great catch and tag too. Our guys did some little things to really help us out today."
The Mustangs' trusty backstop also sparked the walk-off victory, as he led off the eighth with a line drive single up the middle. Jordan Munck followed with a hard-hit single off the third baseman's glove. Peterson loaded the bases with a seeing eye single through the six-hole.
Zero outs were recorded in the bottom of the eighth, as Lawhon put the icing on the cake and was flooded by teammates.
WV's bullpen was sharp in the victory, as sophomore Jake Smith, Dylan Allender, Harrison Price and Jordan Munck combined to throw 6 1/3 innings and allow just three hits and two runs.
"So many people earned valuable experience today," Shabmlin said. "Most of our guys chipped in to this win in a big way. Our bullpen did really well and our guys held their ground. I am proud of them."
The Mustangs unleashed for 11 hits over the last five innings.
Ooltewah;420;000;11 — 8 7 2
Walker Valley;000;410;22 — 9 12 1
WP: Jordan Munck (1-0). 2B: Trevor Wiggs 2 (0); Ethan Hailey (WV). HR: Blake Peterson (WV). Highlights: Caleb Lawhon 3-for-5 2 RBI, 2 R, Peterson 2-for-4, 2R, RBI, SB, Hunter Shamblin 2-for-4, RBI R, Kolten Gibson 1-for-3 RBI 2 R, Kevin Bowerman SB (WV); Wiggs 2-for-4 3 RBIs, Tyler Phillips 2 RBIs. Records: Walker Valley 2-0, 1-0 5-AAA; Ooltewah 0-1, 0-1 5-AAA.
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