HARRISON — After struggling to put runs on the board throughout the first half of the season, the Cleveland baseball Blue Raiders have lit up this week’s opponents for 19 runs and a three-game winning streak.
After sweeping county rival Walker Valley 3-2 and 8-3 in their District 5-AAA series, Coach Ted Carson’s crew capped the week with an 8-4 victory at Chattanooga Central Friday evening.
“We had a total team effort. We played pretty solid defense. Our pitchers (Austin Dykes, Conner Mitchell and Colin Tippitt) all did great jobs, and we were more patient at the plate, and we were able to get some timely hits, especially there in the fourth inning,” the veteran Raider mentor praised.
After both teams scored twice in the opening at bats, Cleveland blew the game open with a six-run rally in the third inning.
“We’ve come together as a team and are playing with confidence,” Coach Carson assessed. “Even though we struggled early (in the season), we never gave up and three wins in a row is a good way to turn things in the right direction.”
Now 7-13 on the season and 3-5 in district play, the Raiders will return to 5-AAA action Monday and Tuesday against Ooltewah (10-8, 5-3). Weather permitting, the teams will open the home-and-home series on the Owls’ home diamond before wrapping up the series at Raider Field. Should either or both games get postponed by expected rain, the game(s) will be moved to Wednesday.
Cleveland got off to a good start Friday when Austin Dykes, the second batter of the contest, reached on an error before battery mate Hunter Oliver roped the first of his two doubles on the night. Both courtesy runners, Michael May and Chase Witt, came around to score a moment later when Taylor Thompson laced a two-out single.
The Purple Pounders (12-11) answered with a pair of runs of their own in the bottom of the first when a two-out error opened the door and back-to-back RBI-singles by Gabe Fomby and Matt Ford evened the score.
After Chattanooga Central took a brief lead with a solo run in the bottom of the third off a Fomby RBI-double, the Raiders came charging in the top of the fourth to plunder a six-run rally.
David Queen started the frame with a four-pitch walk. Thompson then singled, and Derek Nichols bunted the pair up a base. Joe Martin drove home the first run with a solid single up the middle and then stole second base before Garrett Parker walked to load the sacks.
Parker Carson brought in the second run of the rally with a single to left, and Clint Clayton added the third with a sacrifice fly to center field. Dykes helped out his own cause with a run-scoring single before Oliver delivered the big blow with a double off the top of the wall to cap the “6-spot.”
Neither team scored again until the game’s final at bat when Central’s Dakota Fowler doubled to lead off the bottom of the seventh and then scored on a one-out single by Fomby.
After the run scored, Raider reliever Colin Tippitt came in the game to a bases-loaded situation with one out in the seventh and struck out the first batter he faced before getting the second to ground out to earn the save.
Dykes picked up the pitching victory, going the first three frames, striking out a pair and not walking any, while scattering four hits. Conner Mitchell earned a hold with 3.1 innings of work on the hill, notching a trio of Ks, issuing just one free pass and allowing five hits.
Oliver and Thompson both led the Raider offense with a pair of hits. Oliver was hit by a pitch to go along with his two doubles, plus he stole a base and drove in a couple of teammates. Thompson also collected a pair of “ribbies” when going 2-for-4 and scoring a run.
Parker Carson was 1-for-2 with a walk, a stolen base and a RBI. Dykes went 1-for-3, plus he reached on an error and drove in teammate. Martin had a hit, swiped a base, scored once and had a RBI.
Cleveland 200 600 0 — 8 7 3
Chattanooga Central 201 000 1 — 4 9 1
WP: Austin Dykes 3 IP, 2 Ks, 0 BB, 4 hits, 1 ER; LP: Matt Ford 6.2 IP, 6 Ks, 3 BB, 1 HBP, 7 hits, 6 ER. Hold: Conner Mitchell 3.1 IP, 3 Ks, 1 BB, 5 hits, 1 ER; Save: Colin Tippitt 0.2 IP, 1 K, 0 BB, 0 hit, 0 ER; 2B: Hunter Oliver 2 (C); Ty Lowe, Dakota Fowler (CC); RBI: Taylor Thompson 2, Oliver 2, Joe Martin, Parker Carson, Clint Clayton, Austin Dykes (C); Ford 2, Lowe, Gabe Fomby (CC); . Highlights: Oliver 2-3, 2 2B, 2 RBIs, HBP, SB; Thompson 2-4, 2 RBI, run; Carson 1-2, BB, SB, RBI, run; Dykes 1-3, reached on error, RBI; Martin 1-3, SB, RBI, run (C); Fomby 2-4, reached on error, 2B, RBI, run; Matt Ford 2-4, 2 RBI (CC). Records: Cleveland 7-13; Chattanooga Central 12-11.