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Cyclones’ lose on walk-off heartbreaker

Douglas Fritz • Updated May 23, 2018 at 6:21 AM

MURFREESBORO — As thrilling as Elizabethton’s sectional win was, Tuesday’s state baseball tournament loss was equal on the other end of the spectrum.

Leading by a run entering the bottom of the seventh, the Cyclones were forced to watch Stewart County’s celebration as Peyton Milliken drilled an RBI single down the right field line for the walk-off hit in a 3-2 win.

“They were just gritty hitters, putting the ball in play and forcing us to make plays,” said Cyclones’ head coach Ryan Presnell. “Our guys battled and they battled, and they came out on top. We won like that on Friday (against Gibbs). It’s just part of it.”

The Cyclones fell to 26-9 and were bumped into Wednesday’s losers’ bracket game against the loser of Decatur County Riverside and Grundy County, which didn’t begin until after 11 p.m. (EDT) because of weather delays in the Elizabethton game. Because of the late starting time, the losers’ bracket semifinal contest was pushed back to 11 a.m.

Stewart County (25-6) will play the Riverside-Grundy winner in the winners’ bracket final at 2:30.

WINNING RALLY

After a walk and a sacrifice bunt, Logan Beecham hit a hard grounder to shortstop. Corey Russell got in front of the ball, but it took an uneven hop and caromed off his arm and into the outfield. That allowed Thornton Gray to score from second base and the game was tied.

Lawson Wagner then hit a batter. He was relieved by Matthew Dailey, who got a pop out before throwing two fastballs by Milliken.

However, Milliken caught up with the next pitch just enough to steer it hard down the right field line. That allowed pinch-runner Devin Ferrell to score from second base — touching off a Stewart County celebration.

THE LAST INNING

Evan Carter kept finding ways to keep Stewart County a step behind the Cyclones. But the sophomore right-hander’s pitch count ran to 107 through six innings. With the TSSAA limit set at 120, Elizabethton head coach Ryan Presnell had a tough decision to make with Carter having only 13 pitches remaining.

“I wish Evan could have kept his pitch count down, so we could have used him more,” said Presnell. “It was a gutsy effort by a sophomore. It says a lot about him and his character.”

Presnell pulled Carter in favor of Wagner.

“When you look at the delay, and that high of a pitch count, there are things in play that you’ve got to be intelligent about,” said Presnell. “We pride ourselves in taking care of kids, and their health. And we’ve got a lot of faith in Lawson to go out there and do it, and it didn’t happen tonight.”

In his six innings, Carter gave up eight hits, one run, walked two and struck out 10.

STAT LEADERS

Bramlett and Milliken each had two hits for the Rebels.

Andrew Threatt went the distance on the mound, allowing just five hits and two runs, one earned. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out four.

Carter had the lone RBI for Elizabethton. The other run scored when a bases-loaded pop fly dropped in front of home plate for an error on the catcher.

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