The Mustangs took to the diamond in their sixth game of the five-day stretch in the finale against the Warriors of Christian Academy of Knoxville. The Walker Valley bats came to life in the bottom of the fifth and the Mustangs finished up the tournament with a 5-4 win.
“We got a good effort from them. They hit the ball this game against two good pitchers. I was proud about that. Eight hits, that’s better than we did in the last couple of games,” said Mustangs coach Joe Shamblin.
After a scoreless first inning, the Warriors got on the board first with a single and a pair of walks. Another walk to load the bases sent Walker Valley pitching coach Dustin McPherson to the mound for a chat with starter Elijah Haynie. The sophomore lefty responded by getting two ground balls to Kamren Barnes at third get the Mustangs out of the early jam.
Chase Prince picked up the first hit of the game for the Mustangs with a two-out single but was left stranded after a shortstop to second ground out.
A single, hit batsman and a walk loaded the bases for the Warriors and Shamblin headed to the mound pulling Haynie in favor of third baseman Barnes, another lefty. The junior hurler walked to the hill with the bases loaded and responded with a strikeout for the first out of the inning. But, a walk to the next batter loaded the bases setting up a confusing double play to end the inning.
A high pop fly to first ended with the Mustang first baseman diving to his left to make the catch and firing home to prevent a run from scoring. From there, the throw back to third from Walker Valley catcher Josh Poole sailed into left field and CAK appeared to have scored their third and fourth runs of the games. The runs were erased when a Warrior was ruled to have left third base early.
Left fielder Drew Lyles, another Mustangs’ left-handed hurler, moved to the mound for the Mustangs in the top of the fifth. The senior struck out the first two batters he faced and held the Warriors in check with a pick-off move to first for the third out of the inning.
The Mustangs mounted their first serious threat and turned opportunity into a big inning in the bottom half of the fifth. Lazy fly-ball singles by Logan Melton and Logan Russell started the snowball. Brad Smith lifted the third straight single of the inning just inside the right-field line to load the bases. Caleb Longley kept the streak going with a lined shot to right to score Melton and Russell.
The third run of the inning scored when Longley found himself hung up between first and second. Smith made it 3-2 in favor of Walker Valley when he scored on the throw to first in an attempt to get Longley who made it safely to the bag. A Barnes single scored Longley for a 4-2 Mustangs’ lead and the sixth consecutive hit; this time a double by Lyles put runners on second and third with still only one out.
After a strikeout for the second out, the Mustangs took a 5-2 lead when Haynie reached on the third CAK error of the game scoring Barnes. Lyles held onto the lead for Walker Valley in the top of the sixth striking out the side after giving up a harmless two-out single.
“We put some hits together and I think they had an error or two,” Shamblin said of the big inning. “We actually should have gotten another run. I’m a little upset about the run we didn’t get. It should have been a 6-4 final but I’ll take it, it’s a win.”
Right fielder Prince became the third left-handed pitcher out of a four pitcher cumulative effort for the Mustangs when he took to the hill for Walker Valley in the top of the seventh.
The southpaw gave up a walk and double with one out and loaded the bases with a second walk bringing Shamblin to the mound for a chat with his senior hurler. A ground ball to first got the second out and scored a run for Christian. The second Mustangs’ error of the game made it a 5-4 game with the tying run at third, but Prince got a grounder to end the inning and the game, preserving the win for Walker Valley.
“After the start of the game, we didn’t work from behind a lot tonight. We’ve been working a lot from behind and we’ve been preaching to them about getting ahead in the count and making sure we work ahead. We did a better job of that tonight so hopefully, it will continue to happen,” said Shamblin.
“We learned a little bit about ourselves and learned a little bit about some players and where they need to be and how they need to be playing. That’s what these tournaments are for.”
Christian Academy 011 000 2 — 4 5 4
Walker Valley 000 050 x — 5 8 2
WP: Drew Lyles; LP: Jones. 2B: Lyles (WV); Parker Cochran (CAK). Records: Walker Valley 4-2.