“The reason we play tournaments is so that we can get prepared to play competitive baseball in May,” Polk County head coach Michael Carter said. “We’re going to have to play a bunch of games back-to-back there, so it puts our guys in a situation where they have to play well to win when we might not be at 100 percent.”
Both Cleveland and Polk County participated in the Pounder Invitational hosted by Chattanooga Central and Hixson Thursday through Saturday.
The Raiders did so well they qualified to play in the event’s championship game, which took place after press time Saturday evening.
Both teams split their first day of the invitational with Polk narrowly losing to Clarksville 10-8, while Cleveland ran through Hixson with a score of 13-1.
“We had a good game against Hixson with a good pitching performance from Colin Tippitt,” Cleveland head coach Ted Carson said. “We had a bunch of hits and scored a lot of runs. Our bats are starting to come around.”
On Friday afternoon the Raiders and Wildcats got the opportunity to play against each other, where Cleveland had a successful go of it in an 11-0 victory.
Prior to facing the Raiders, Polk County had just played an emotional extra inning game against Andalusia (Ala.), which had ended in an 11-11 tie.
“That game yesterday (Friday) against Andalusia was a real barn burner, it went back and forth,” Carter commented. “It’s been exciting the last couple days until Cleveland, where we just ran out of gas. That was our fifth game in four days (Polk had a home-and-home series with Sweetwater on Tuesday and Wednesday), with extra innings with Andalusia and playing until the last inning with Clarksville the night before.”
The match up between the two neighboring squads started off with a scoreless stalemate that held solid until the fourth inning.
Cleveland’s bats got warmed up in the fourth and fifth, with two runs each. Jake Wyrick got the first run for the Raiders, followed by Eric Powers.
In the fifth Ryan Adkins made it home thanks to a double from Kimsey Bell. Taylor Thompson was responsible for batting Kimsey in for the Raider’s fourth run.
It was during a drawn out sixth inning where the Raiders took a decisive lead over the Wildcats.
“We started out a little slow with the bats then the second time around got the bats going. We had some good base running and timely hits. That was the difference in the game,” Carson stated.
Sophomore Jonathan Martin pitched the entire game for the Raiders, and was fantastic from the mound with a three-hit shutout.
“We got a good pitching performance from Martin. He did good and we played some good defense,” Carson commented.
Despite their efforts, the lagging Polk County team just couldn’t get anything going to salvage the game.
“Cleveland showed up and played well. They got the ball out there and we did not. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t swing it better than we did,” Carter said. “Coming off of emotional games like the one against Alabama where we were down to the last out and to have a hit to keep the game going takes a lot out of you.”
Directly following their impressive victory over Polk, the Raiders took on another clowder of Wildcats from Clarksville. Unfortunately, Cleveland was not able to carry over the winning momentum, falling 10-5.
“We did some good things tonight (Friday). Clarksville is a good team and we just didn’t get the hits that we needed to and had a couple of errors,” Carson explained. “Kimsey Bell had two home runs and he was 3-4 tonight so that was a big thing. They got some more at bats and more experience. Right now we’re a fairly young team so the more games we play the better.”
On Saturday morning Cleveland played Andalusia and came out on top 9-7.
“We had some good hits. Austin Dykes was 3-for-4 and Jake Wyrick had a two-run homer,” Carson said.
The winning pitcher was Dykes, who according to Carson came in to relieve Eric Powers after four good innings.
The Raiders are currently 8-8 on the season and 2-2 in District 5-AAA play after getting two wins in a doubleheader against Rhea County earlier last week.
Cleveland will have the chance to improve their district record this next week, as they play Walker Valley on Monday and Tuesday. The Mustangs are currently tied with Ooltewah at 5-1 for second place in the district.
The Raiders are scheduled to be at Mike Turner Field Monday evening, weather permitting, while the Mustangs will gallop into Raider Field Tuesday. Both games are currently slated for a 7 p.m. first pitch.
Polk County 6-7-1 overall on the young campaign and 2-0 in 5-AA play. The Wildcats will be back in district action on Monday when the Meigs County Tigers come to Benton. The teams will square off in Decatur Tuesday. Both games are set to get underway at 5 p.m.
Polk County 000 000 — 0 3 4
Cleveland 000 229 — 11 10 0
WP: Jonathan Martin. LP: Andrew Aldridge. 2B: Carter Flowers (PC); Kimsey Bell 2 (C). RBI: Reed Allison, Bell, Taylor Thompson, Eric Powers, Austin Dykes, Koltyn Plumb (C). Records: Cleveland 8-8, 2-2 District 5-AAA; Polk County 6-7-1, 2-0 District 5-AA.