Sevier County took a 7-2 lead through two innings and rode pitchers, Nick Osborne and Devonte Matthews, to an 8-2 victory in a Region 1-AAA first-round game Monday at Sevier County.
Science HIll ended the season at 30-9. Sevier County (28-12) will host Dobyns-Bennett (31-4-1) on Wednesday.
D-B, which beat Morristown West 2-0 on Monday, and the Smoky Bears both will advance to the sectional on Friday.
Two Science Hill errors helped Sevier County score three of starter Daniel Sweeney in the first. The Hilltoppers answered with two in the top of the second without getting a hit. Osborne walked four and hit Kyle Ouellete with an offspeed pitch with the bases loaded.
But Osborne left the bases-loaded via an Landon Knack flyout, and Sevier County scored four more in the bottom of the second. The Smoky Bears' fans breathed easy the rest of the night.
Osborne allowed four hits and walked six while striking out two in the six innings. Such a line would've been hard to envision after his shaky second innings.
"I mean, yeah, there's quite a bit of doubt at that point in the game," Sevier County coach Casey Taylor said. "But once he was able to resettle back in he went above and beyond what we were asking him to do. We kind of wanted him to get three, maybe four (innings), and then turn it over to Devonte. But he left us no choice. And what an effort on his part, for sure."
Despite the bases being loaded with Ouellette and Knack coming up, Taylor said they were going to challenge the Hilltoppers' Nos. 3 and 4 batters in the lineup.
"We were just one swing away early ... of making a game of it," said coach Ryan Edwards, whose Hilltoppers beat Sevier County during the regular season. "You just can't keep digging holes like that. Eventually, those are gonna catch up with you."
The key moment in the second was Dallas Gossett's two-run double off the left-field wall on the 10th pitch of the at-bat. It made the score 6-2.
"Just an absolute grind-out at-bat," Taylor said. "He was able to win that at-bat, and that was a huge sequence for our team, especially from a momentum standpoint."
Matthews finished 2-for-3 with three RBIs, and worked a perfect seventh on the mound. Shortstop Alan Silver and left fielder Dalton Ford were each 2-for-4.
Sevier County out-hit Science Hill, 11-4.
"You've gotta credit them," Ouellette said. "They were hitting it well all game. We just weren't getting timely hitting or getting on base when we should've been."
The Smoky Bears defense was solid. Silva made two difficult plays look routine at shortstop.
"He's as good a defensive shortstop as there is, I think, in East Tennessee," Edwards said.
Third baseman Kody Paul made a diving catch on Knack's line-drive in the seventh. Ford made a twisting catch on the warning track to deny Connell Boyle of a hit in the second.
Knack pitched effectively after inheriting the 7-2 deficit when he came on to start the third. He allowed one run, four hits and one walk while striking out two in four innings.
"Landon did a good job," Edwards said. "He battled out there. ... We just weren't able to get the bats going tonight. ...
"And credit their hitters. Every time we missed our spot, they hit the ball hard. And there were times we did hit our spots and they got their base-hits."
Edwards thanked all seven of his seniors for their work while mentioning each by name — Tucker McPherson, J.T. Torbett, Kyle Ouellette, Addison Adams, Daniel Sweeney, Brad Carter and Matthew Beaird.
"They gave me all of their effort all year," he said. "I'm really proud of our guys for the season they had. They finished with 30 wins and got to the region."
McPherson was 1-for-3 with a walk and a line-out. Jordan Holly was 1-for-2 with a walk and a run. Adams had a double and made a difficult over-the-shoulder catch on the warning track in left field to rob Gossett of another double.
Beaird walked twice and lined out.
"I think he's an exceptional player," Taylor said.
Knack was 1-for-4 with a double and a line-out. Ouellette (0-for-2), who plans to sign with Walters State this week and set an Edwards-era (seven seasons) Science Hill record with 24 doubles this season, was walked intentionally and hit by an offspeed pitch with the bases loaded.
"We came up short but I love my team," said Ouellette who moved to Johnson City from the San Francisco area before his junior season. "When I came here with no friends — nobody — they were here for me. I just want to thank all of them."
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