The Mustangs manufactured only three hits in the 9-1 loss to Knoxville Catholic after dropping a 7-3 decision to Powell Friday night.
Powell used the long ball to hand the Mustangs their first loss. The Panthers powered a three-run shot and solo homer to get the win. Walker Valley's Caleb Longley went deep for the Mustangs' first homer of the year with a shot over the left-field wall.
Saturday, against Knox Catholic the Mustangs were forced to battle out of a first inning jam in a foreshadowing of things to come.
Pitching from behind in the count against the first two KC batters, Walker Valley starter "Big Bad" John Simmons got a nifty double play with runners on second and third from shortstop Bradley Smith. A pop fly back to Simmons ended the inning for the Irish.
"We are still pitching behind and its real frustrating. We haven't had to do that in several years," said a discontented Walker Valley head coach Joe Shamblin. "Obviously, when you're playing a good team and you're pitching behind they are going to tee off on it when you have to come down the middle with a fastball. That's what's kind of happening and we are walking people and it's really frustrating right now.
"Coach (Dustin) McPherson does a great job with our pitchers, but they are just inexperienced right now and they have to get some experience under their belt."
Simmons found his groove in the second fanning two of the three batters he faced. The Mustangs somewhat found their groove at the plate in the bottom of the inning loading the bases with one out. Kamren Barnes put Walker Valley up 1-0 with a sacrifice fly to right field.
The Irish came back in the fourth as Simmons again struggled on the hill. The junior righty hit the first two batters of the inning and loaded the bases with a walk to the third. A passed ball tied the game at 1-1. A perfect throw on a fly ball from right fielder Chase Prince kept Catholic from taking the lead. The reprieve lasted less than one batter when a wild pitch allowed the Irish to score their second unearned run.
After loading the bases for the third time in the inning, Shamblin pulled his junior hurler in favor of senior Jake Ward who stepped in with two outs and the pads full of Irish. Catholic added three more runs on an infield single and another hit batter and an error to make it 5-1.
Knox Catholic did the damage with a plethora of Walker Valley self-inflicted wounds with three hit batters, three walks and a Walker Valley error.
"Our defense wasn't mentally in the game and it all starts right there," said Shamblin.
After holding the Mustangs scoreless in the bottom of the seventh, Knox Catholic loaded the bases on back-to-back singles and a walk. The Irish made it a 7-1 game with a single to right with nobody out sending Shambling back to the mound to replace Ward with Zach Wilcox.
The sophomore got three fly balls to to get the Mustangs out of the inning.
Catholic added two more in the sixth on a two-run single to put the Irish up 9-1. Walker Valley left fielder Drew Lyles kept it from being a nine run lead for Catholic with a brilliant throw to the plate on the third out after the third hit of the inning.
The Irish put a final Mustang on base on a hit batter in the seventh before closing out the win.
Shamblin said he hopes the tough opening run of six games in five days will serve to strengthen the mental toughness of the Mustangs who need to learn to play through rough times.
"I think you have to play to get out of some things. I think it kind of separates the good teams from the not so good teams, just playing and working through the bad stuff," he said. "Hopefully, we can work through it and get back in good shape."
Knox Catholic 000 522 0 — 9 11 1
Walker Valley 001 000 0 — 1 3 2
WP: Ethan Elliott; LP: John Simmons. WB: Adam Reed Lane Harrison (KC). Records: Walker Valley 3-2.