A tailor-made double-play ball didn’t suit Science Hill’s fashionable Big Eight Conference record.
The Hilltoppers couldn’t turn a 6-4-3 double play to force extra innings Friday at Daniel Boone. Second baseman Tucker McPherson’s pivot throw bounced past first baseman Kyle Ouelette, and Brandon Davis dashed home for a 6-5 Trailblazers victory.
It was the first league loss for the ‘Toppers (9-1, 20-5), who remain a game ahead of Dobyns-Bennett (10-2, 21-4) in the loss column atop the league standings. Boone (8-4, 14-11) is still eyeing a third-place finish, but its players were smiling like champions after beating their Washington County neighbor.
“When Kevin Connell was here we beat them about once a year, and it’s just good to step up and do what they did,” said senior Taylor Smith (1-1), who got the win on the mound in relief, reached base three times and scored three runs.
Smith led off the seventh inning with a walk. Davis, a courtesy runner, was sacrificed to second on Jake Littleton’s bunt.
Science Hill reliever Grant Rabbitts (3-2) then hit Hunter Summie with a pitch to set what proved to be the game-ending situation for designated hitter Cameron Clabough. He hit a 1-0 pitch sharply, but right at shortstop Kyle Wilson for what looked like an inning-ending twin killing.
Science Hill had tied the score with a run in the seventh on Addison Adams’ RBI single. But as they’d done during the two previous innings in which the ‘Toppers scored, the Trailblazers answered.
Reed Hayes had given Science Hill a 3-0 lead with a three-run home run in the third. Boone answered with four runs in the bottom of the third, capped by Clabough’s two-out, two-run single.
McPherson led off the fifth with a triple and scored on Wilson’s game-tying single, but the ‘Blazers made it 5-4 on Summie’s one-out line single off starting pitcher Will Craig in bottom of the fifth.
Craig left trailing 5-4 (two runs were unearned) after throwing 88 pitches. He allowed six hits, walked one, struck out five and hit a batter.
“To take the kind of swings we did against a great pitcher like Will Craig, I was really proud of our hitters,” Boone coach Robbie Hoover said. “I don’t think we were intimidated. I thought we had a really good approach at the plate. We knew we had to be quick because his velocity was so good.”
Science Hill stranded 10 runners and left the bases loaded in the sixth and seventh innings. McPherson lined out to first for the final out in the seventh after Smith struck out Connell Boyle looking at a 0-2 slider with the bases loaded for the second out.
“You’ve got to come in and beat Science Hill when you have a chance to – for everybody in the dugout,” Smith said.
Boone’s Jake Littleton relieved starter Daniel Wagner with one out in the fifth, the score tied at 4 and runners at first and third. He got Hayes and David Bryant swinging at fastballs to retire the side with runners at second and third.
Littleton was 2-for-3 with an RBI and the sacrifice. Sophomore Zach Peters lined both of his hits hard, including an RBI double in the third.
Adams was 1-for-2 with a walk and was hit by a pitch. Ouelette was 1-for-2 with two walks.
“Right now, we’ve got to get better,” Science Hill coach Ryan Edwards said. “That’s the bottom line. It’s hard to go undefeated in this league, and not only that, it’s gonna be hard to keep things going. But I know our guys are gonna recover from this. …
“Give them credit. They have a good team and they did a good job of driving in their runs. They made their plays. They threw strikes.”
The Trailblazers visit Sullivan South today in a game that could decide third place, and visit Science Hill on Monday.
Science Hill is at Tennessee High today.