OOLTEWAH — The Cleveland Blue Raiders loaded the bases with one out in the first inning against Ooltewah, but were unable to push a run across in what proved to be an ominous sign.
The Raiders hit the ball well early but could not dig out of an early hole, falling to the Owls 7-3 in Thursday’s District 5-AAA tournament opener.
The Owls jumped on Cleveland starter Taylor Thompson for two runs in the first and two more in the bottom of the second.
“The first inning we had bases loaded and only had one out. A big hit there and it might have been a little different story,” said Blue Raiders coach Ted Carson.
The Raiders fired back in the top of the third, cutting the lead in half.
Jay McIntyre got it started with a one-out double to right-center field. Hunter Oliver followed with a single to center. David Queen connected for the third straight Cleveland hit, a two-RBI double to left to make it a 4-2 game.
Carson lifted Thompson for Connor Mitchell in the Owls’ half of the third and the Cleveland lefty — with the help of a run-stopping throw from right field by Koltyn Plumb that nailed a potential Ooltewah run at the plate — kept the Owls off the board.
Ooltewah made up for the lost run in the Owls’ next at bat with three consecutive hits, the big blow a Brady Binder three-run line-drive home run that just cleared the left-field fence.
“They got to Taylor early. We came back and scored a couple then they got the home run and opened in up a little bit,” said Carson.
“I pulled Taylor early, we’ve got all our pitching ready and have a couple of days to rest. We will be ready to go.”
Cleveland made it a 7-3 game in the top of the sixth scoring on an Austin Dykes single and Derek Nichols double.
Carson pulled Mitchell in favor of Dykes to start the bottom of the sixth. Dykes held the Owls scoreless but, the Raiders were unable to do any damage in their half of the seventh.
“If we had been a little closer I probably would have left him in, but they got ahead by four and it didn’t look like he had his best stuff,” Carson said.
Cleveland will try to work its way through the loser’s bracket Sunday at 1 p.m. The Raiders will go up against either Bradley Central, McMinn County or Soddy-Daisy.
OWLS 7, BLUE RAIDERS 3
Cleveland 002 001 0 — 3 7 1
Ooltewah 220 300 x — 2 10 3
WP: Logan Fugate. LP: Taylor Thompson. HR: Brody Binder. 2B: Jay McEntire, David Queen, Koltyn Plumb (C); Fugate, Binder (O). Highlights: Queen 2 RBI (C); Fugate 2-3 RBI, Binder 2-3 4 RBIs, Zettel 2-2 (O). Records: Cleveland 10-19; Ooltewah 16-12.