Despite having a 2-1 lead over the Mustangs at the end of the fourth, Polk County’s miscues in the fifth inning proved costly as the visitors were able to get four runs in, ultimately winning 7-2.
“We hit a two-batter stretch where we did more things wrong than I thought was possible,” Wildcat head coach Michael Carter said. “If we allow big innings, we can’t be successful.”
In the first two innings neither team gave up a run, with Walker Valley pitcher Kamren Barnes and Polk County pitcher Andrew Aldridge doing their best to stump the batters at the plate.
Red hot Caleb Longley got the Mustangs on the board first with a double in the third that brought Bradley Smith home.
The Wildcats were able to answer back with two runs of their own in the bottom of the third.
Justin Brown drove a hit into center field for a double, bringing Nolan Bishop in for Polk County’s first run. Aldridge followed up with a hit to left field that brought Brown home.
“I thought that we played about six innings worth of quality baseball, good enough to have a chance to win,” Carter commented.
The Wildcats’ defense was able to hold off the Mustangs in the fourth, allowing no visitor to make it past second base.
Walker Valley was able to return the favor in the bottom of the fourth, and despite a double by Carter Flowers, gave up no runs. Left fielder Drew Lyles made the three catches needed to quickly end the inning.
In the top of the fifth the Mustangs were able to capitalize on pitching inconsistencies and get the tying run after Josh Poole was walked with the bases loaded, bringing Logan Melton home.
“The guys found a way to come back and win, and I’m proud of them for that,” Shamblin stated. “The kid that they had pitching was keeping us off balance. He actually got a bit tired and that helped us settle in, get a few runs, and get the win.”
Brown came in to take over the mound for the Wildcats, but a hit to left field by Chase Prince was enough to drive Dallas Kuykendall in and also kept the bases loaded.
A wild pitch to Elijah West gave Walker Valley the chance to drive in two more runners.
Prince took over pitching for the Mustangs in the bottom of the fifth and the visitors successfully held off Polk.
The sixth inning blew by with neither side being able to make it safely to first base.
“We’ve put together some really good baseball in the last week and at the same time we’ve put together some bad baseball,” Carter stated. “We played two really solid games against Cleveland and Sequoyah and then we played an absolutely terrible game against Sequoyah. Hopefully we can find some way to stay out of the big innings.”
Walker Valley started out the seventh inning with another double from Longley.
“He’s (Longley) getting hot at the right time and we’re going to need him to continue being successful. He’s got to hit, for us to be successful,” Shamblin said.
After stealing third, Longley was able to make it all the way home, thanks to a hit by John Simmons.
Polk County pitchers once again loaded up the bases, and Simmons was walked in for the Mustangs’ final run.
Simmons finished up the game from the pitcher’s mound by striking out the first Wildcat batter, while Elijah Haynie secured the final two outs of the game from center field.
Both Walker Valley and Polk County will finish up their district play next week.
The Mustangs will play at Soddy-Daisy and the Wildcats will be at McMinn Central Monday evening.
Weather permitting, Walker Valley will travel to Meigs County for a 5 p.m. game today.
MUSTANGS 7, WILDCATS 2
Walker Valley 001 040 2 — 7 11 1
Polk County 002 000 0 — 2 5 3
WP: Kamren Barnes (5-1). LP: Andrew Aldridge. 2B: Caleb Longley 2 (WV); Justin Brown, Carter Flowers (PC). Other highlights: Longley 3-4, RBI, run; Chase Prince 2-4, RBI; Lyles 1-3, run (WV); Brown 1-2, RBI; Aldridge 1-2, RBI (PC). Records: Walker Valley 15-11; Polk County 10-10.