Unlike the previous night’s 24-hit, 13-run, 10-inning slugfest, Tuesday evening’s Bradley Central-Ooltewah District 5-AAA battle was dominated by a pair of pitching aces, with four of the game’s five runs crossing the plate in the sixth inning.
With both hurlers going the distance, Bear junior Ty King (5-0) scattered five hits, struck out 10 and walked just one to outduel Owl lefty Logan Fugate (5-2), who gave up just three hits (all doubles), but issued a half dozen free passes in the 3-2 contest.
After a heartbreaking 7-6, extra-inning loss in Ooltewah Monday, Bradley held a slim 1-0 advantage going into the sixth frame Tuesday, but the Owls rallied for a pair of runs, forcing the hosts to bounce back for two in their final at bat to split the series.
“We almost found a way to lose, but instead we found a way to turn it around for a win,” proclaimed Bear head coach Travis Adams. “Ty (King) pitched a great game and made just one mistake on a pitch and then we gave them the other run.”
“Their guy (Fugate) kept us off balance most of the night, but we made the most of what we got,” he added. “We hit a lot of balls hard, but right at people.”
The victory guarantees Bradley (17-11, 9-3) at least a tie for the regular season district title, depending on the results of tonight’s game between East Hamilton (18-13, 8-3) and McMinn County (8-14, 3-8).
Should the Hurricanes, which beat the Tribe 3-0 Monday, complete the home-and-home sweep, they would get the No. 1 seed in next week’s district tournament by virtue of having swept fourth-seeded Ooltewah (15-12, 7-5), while the Bears split with the Owls.
Both Bradley and East Hamilton split their series with Soddy-Daisy (14-14, 8-4), which dropped out of a three-way tie for first Tuesday evening when it fell to Cleveland by a 6-1 margin. The Trojans will be the No. 3 seed when the tournament gets underway at Ooltewah’s “Bud” Ball Field on April 30.
King set the Owls down in order through the first three innings Tuesday, before going to his only three-ball count of the night while walking Fugate to open the top of the fourth. Two batters later Troy State signee Brody Binder laced the first Ooltewah hit with a one-out single.
King then caught Fugate leaning the wrong way on a pickoff play at second base, actually making the tag himself on the ensuing 1-4-5-6-1 run down. The lanky right-hander then struck out the next Owl to end the threat.
The Bears put the first run on the scoreboard in the bottom of the third. Senior Chandler Duggan drew a walk to open the at bat, then stole second before classmate Caleb Pace got the first Bradley hit with a one-out double to right field to drive in the run.
After scoreless fourth and fifth frames, King opened the top of the sixth with a backward K before senior center fielder Cal Pickel made a diving catch on the warning track in the right-center field gap for the second out.
“Cal covers everything out there, from 345 sign to 345 sign,” declared Coach Adams. “He’s made so many great catches out there, we’ve just expect him to get anything hit that way.”
After the “SportsCenter”-worthy highlight catch, King got two quick strikes on Hayden Bradley, but left the 0-2 pitch too close to the strike zone and it was hit up the middle for a single, bringing Binder, who had delivered the game-winning hit the night before, to the plate. The big Owl catcher drilled a shot off the left field wall for a double to tie the score.
The visitors took the lead a moment later when Binder, who had advanced to third on the throw to the plate after his two-bagger, came home on a throwing error after a missed squeeze bunt. Once again King put an end to the rally with a strikeout.
Finding themselves in a hole, the Bears came roaring back in the bottom of the sixth when senior Baylor Terrell led off with an opposite field double and was bunted to third by classmate Jacob Barnes. After a groundout put the second out on the board, senior Logan Blackwell “took one for the team” to put runners on the corners.
Junior Tyler Carpenter, who had a trio of hits the night before, stepped to the dish and sent a rocket to the left-center field gap to bring both runners around with the tying and game-winning runs.
Not willing to surrender quitely, Ooltewah’s Caleb Collins opened the top of the seventh with the game’s fifth double, but he would be stranded at second as King struck out the next batter, induced a ground ball to short and capped the victory with a short fly to center.
King lowered his earned run average to 1.16 and improved his strikeout mark to 66 in 48 innings pitched so far this season.
“I’m proud of the way we fought back,” praised Coach Adams. “Anytime you’re in a district game, you expect it to be a tough, one-run game.”
Bears 5, Owls 2
Bradley swept the junior varsity games in the series, posting a 5-2 victory Tuesday to go with Monday’s 11-1 win.
Jeremiah Simms went six innings on the hill for the Bears, striking out five to earn the pitching victory.
The JV Bears stroked five doubles in the contest, with Byron Mantooth roping a pair, while Sims, Kylar Lynn and Gunner Norwood adding one apiece. Austin Calfee, Lynn and Norwood each drove in runs for the victors.
Ooltewah 000 002 0 — 2 5 0
Bradley Central 001 002 x — 3 3 2
WP: Ty King (5-0) 7 IP, 3 10 K’s, 1 BB, 5 hits, 1 ER; LP: Logan Fugate (5-2) 6 IP, 5 K’s, 3 BB, 3 HBP, 3 hits, 3 ER. 2B: Brody Binder (O); Tyler Carpenter, Baylor Terrell, Caleb Pace (BC). RBI: Binder (O); Carpenter 2, Pace (BC). Highlights: Binder 2-3, 2B, RBI, run; Caleb Collins 2-3 (O); Carpenter 1-3, 2B, 2 RBIs; Pace 1-2, 2B, HBP, RBI; Terrell 1-1, HBP, 2B, run; Duggan 2 BB, SB, run. Records: Bradley Central 17-11, 9-3 District 5-AAA; Ooltewah 15-12, 7-5 District 5-AAA.