For 11 innings, the Walker Valley Mustangs did their best to disprove the unwritten law of baseball that a team has to hit the ball to win the game.
In the end, a hit started the finish, but an unearned run in the bottom of the 12th gave Walker Valley (11-18) a 3-2 win over McMinn Central (13-16) in the Mustangs' final home game of the season.
Junior right-hander Kyle Goins got the win for Walker Valley with four innings of solid pitching. Goins gave up three hits and an unearned run to the Chargers before handing the ball to senior John Simmons, who started the fifth. The Mustangs' reliever allowed five hits and one run for six innings. Sophomore Ben Clark took the leather in the top of the 11th and held off the Chargers for six outs to get the save.
"We had good pitching and no errors, and that gives you a chance to win ball games," said a happy and relieved Mustangs Coach Joe Shamblin after the four-hour, 22-minute marathon. "Eight hits in 12 innings — you aren't beating the ball to death, but a win's a win."
Walker Valley left 11 potential winning runs on base — five in the first three innings — falling behind 1-0 before taking a 2-1 lead in the fourth on two unearned runs. Without the benefit of a hit, the Mustangs took advantage of McMinn Central mistakes to ease past the Chargers.
Dillan Church walked to first after getting hit by a pitch, R.J. Hammonds was the beneficiary of catcher interference, and Josh Bean loaded the bases with the second walk of the inning. A fielder's choice put the first Walker Valley run on the board, and a wild pitch made it a 2-0 game.
Two hits and a wild pitch in the top of the sixth allowed the Chargers to tie the game at 2-2.
Walker Valley left runners on base in the bottom of the inning and missed chances in the ninth, 10th and 11th to put the game away.
It was the bottom of the 12th before before the Mustangs were able to push a final run across.
The inning started with a Brice Gibson to right. Bradley Smith worked Central pitching for a walk and a wild pitch moved the runners up one base. Gibson was eliminated minutes later after getting caught in a rundown between third and home. Elijah West kept the inning going after being hit with a pitch putting two Mustangs back on the pads.
The Chargers elected to intentionally walk Simmons — who had picked up three hits in five trips to the plate — to load the bases for Church. With the pads full of Mustangs, Church ripped a ground ball to Central's shortstop, who elected to try and keep the run off the board with a double play to end the inning. The Chargers got the out at second, but the throw to first bounced wide, allowing Smith to touch home with the winning run.
"Our base running was not very good, that's for sure. Young guys. Young guys make young mistakes. But a young guy came though for us and got a big hit. Brice did a good job. I'll take it," said Shamblin.
"Maybe this will give us some momentum heading into the district tournament."
MUSTANGS 3, CHARGERS 2
McMinn Central 000 101 000 000 — 2 10 1
Walker Valley 000 200 000 001 — 3 8 0
WP: Kyle Goins. LP: Grant Parrott. SAVE: Ben Clark. 2B: Reed Shaw, Nathaniel Wyatt, David Elliott (MC). Highlights: John Simmons 3-5 (WV). Records: McMinn Central 13-16; Walker Valley 11-18.