After starting the new baseball season off with a three-hour and 15-minute marathon mistakes (17 walks, four hit batsmen and eight errors) on Tuesday, Bradley Central and Cleveland got their acts together for a classic 1-0 pitchers’ duel Wednesday with no fielding miscues and each team rapping out just three hits apiece.
“There was great pitching on both sides. They (the pitchers) kept the batters in check. A really clean-cut game,” declared head coach Travis Adams after his Bears claimed their second District 5-AAA victory in as many days. “This game could have gone either way. We were able to dodge some bullets when they (Cleveland) got some runners on base.”
“This is true baseball,” responded Blue Raider assistant coach Danny Carson when asked to compare the two games. “There was some great pitching and really good defensive plays and if not for one of our runners slipping on the wet field, it could have easily gone the other way.”
Both coaches praised the effort of Cleveland hurler Taylor Thompson, who got saddled with the loss despite going the distance in throwing a three-hitter, striking out a half dozen and issuing just one free pass, which came back to haunt him.
While the Bear hurlers also drew accolades for their scoreless effort. Starter Jacob Fowler earned the win, going 5 1/3 innings, notching six Ks and allowing just two hits, but he also walked four and hit a pair of Raiders. Ryan Blair tossed the final 1 2/3 innings to pick up the save after giving up just one hit, striking out one and issuing a pair of walks.
Both teams managed just one base runner in the first two frames, but neither got past first base.
Cleveland’s Jake Wyrick got plunked with two outs in the top of the first, but was erased on a fielder’s choice before Fowler struck out the side in the second.
The first four Bear batters went down in order before junior Jacob Barnes laced the game’s first hit with a single to right but then was wiped out on a double play to end the inning a batter later.
The Raiders put together a threat when junior Koltyn Plumb led off the top of the third with a single to left, but Barnes made a nice play at first to start a 3-6-3 double play to clear the bases. Cleveland came right back as senior Reed Allison worked Fowler for a walk and then junior Kimsey Bell knocked a single and moved to second when the throw went to third to try to get Allison, but was unsuccessful.
With runners on second and third with two outs, Fowler was able to induce a fly ball to center field to end the threat.
The teams went in order in the next two at bats before Bear leadoff man Brently White drew a base on balls to start the bottom of the fourth. Teammate Charles Chavis bunted him over to second and White moved to third on a wild pitch before senior Caleb Pippenger earned the game’s lone RBI with a sac fly to right field to complete the “small ball” score without benefit of a hit.
Cleveland was able to get a pair of base runners on in the top of the fifth as junior Jackson Earle and Allison both drew walks, but the Bear senior hurler ended the threat with a strike out.
The Raiders threatened again in the sixth when Wyrick was hit for the second time in the contest to open the frame and after a walk to Thompson two batters later, coach Adams pulled the trigger on Fowler and brought Blair to the hill. The big senior righty struggled at first, loading the bases with walk and going 3-0 on the following batter, before battling back to strike the Raider out.
The threat ended when the next batter popped up in shallow center field and White made the catch despite colliding with Chavis who was also converging on the ball.
Cleveland made one more run at the lead in the game’s final at bat when Allison stroked a one-out double to the base of the left-center field wall on a 3-2 pitch. After a two-out walk to Wyrick, Blair was able to get the final out with a fly ball to right field.
Wyrick and Allison both reached base three times in the contest, while no one else got on more than once.
“It’s great to our guys battle tested and see them come through in such a tight, important game,” proclaimed coach Adams. “Our hitting needs to come along, but that’s not unusual this time of the year.”
“Fowler and Blair were both a little shaky at times, but worked out of the jams they got into,” he added.
Bradley (2-0, 2-0 District 5-AAA) will take today off before heading to participate in the annual Hixson tournament this weekend.
The Bears will be in Harrison Friday for a pair of games, facing co-host Chattanooga Central at 4 p.m. and East Ridge at 6:45. Bradley will travel to Hixson Saturday afternoon to tangle with the host Wildcats at 12:45 and Tullahoma at 3. The tournament championship will be Sunday afternoon at 2.
Cleveland (0-2, 0-2 District 5-AAA) will open tournament play tonight in the Scenic City Classic. The Blue Raiders will travel to Baylor to face the Red Raiders at 7 this evening.
On Friday, Cleveland will travel to Red Bank to take on Rabun Gap (Ga.) at 4:30 and the host Lions at 7. The Raiders will wrap up their weekend action at 3 Saturday afternoon at McCallie with a game against Northwest Whitfield (Ga.).
Bradley will return to district play Monday with a trip to Soddy-Daisy, while Cleveland will journey to Boyd-Buchanan for a nondistrict match up.
Cleveland 000 000 0 — 0 3 0
Bradley Central 000 100 x — 1 3 0
WP: Jacob Fowler (1-0) 5.1 IP, 6 Ks, 4 BB, 2 HBP, 2 hits, 0 ER; LP: Taylor Thompson (0-1) 6 IP, 6 Ks, 1 BB, 3 hits, 1 ER. Save: Ryan Blair (S, 1) 1.2 IP, 1 K, 2 BB, 1 hit, 0 ER. 2B: Reed Allison (C); RBI: Caleb Pippenger (BC). Highlights: Reed Allison 1-2, 2B, 2 BB; Jake Wyrick 2 HBP, BB; Koltyn Plumb 1-2; Kimsey Bell 1-3 (C); White BB, r; 1-2; Jacob Barnes 1-2; Charles Chavis 1-2; Jacob Fowler 1-2 (BC). Records: Cleveland 0-2, 0-2 District 5-AAA; Bradley Central 2-0, 2-0 District 5-AAA.