(Photos by Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
Science Hill coach Ryan Edwards was so relieved to see how Garren Jackson was pitching that he decided to let the junior bat for the first time in his varsity career.
Jackson pitched three effective innings of relief and delivered an RBI single for his first career hit, helping the Hilltoppers defeat Daniel Boone 15-9 on Thursday at Clarence Mabe Field.
The victory clinched the second seed in District 1-AAA for Science Hill (8-3, 25-6), which rallied to beat Boone for the second time in three days.
The Trailblazers (7-4, 16-10) built a 7-2 lead on Thursday, but five pitchers combined for 11 walks.
Jackson (3-1) walked one while allowing no earned runs in three innings. He gave up three hits and struck out two.
And the icing on the cake was getting to bat in the sixth and seventh innings.He lined out to second base in his first career at-bat and hit an RBI single to left for the fourth run in Science Hill’s five-run seventh.
“Garren was the MVP of this game, because we had the answer in the bullpen,” Edwards said. “He was the only pitcher – really once the starters got out on either side – that went out there and shut the door. And that was the difference in this game.
“And that’s why he hit twice when he hasn’t had any at-bats all year, because he came out firing that first inning. I went to our hitting coach and said, ‘Listen, no matter what, if it’s tied or we’re ahead, I have to leave him, because he’s got great stuff and I think he can hold ‘em down. And heck, he hit a line-drive and got a base-hit.”
Science Hill trailed 7-6 before scoring four in the top of the sixth. Boone pitchers walked four batters and hit another in the frame. Two of the walks came with the bases loaded.
Boone cut the Hilltoppers’ lead to 10-9 with two runs in the bottom of the sixth thanks, in part, to an error and hits by Zach Peters and Jacob Keefauver.
But Science Hill answered with five in the top of the seventh.
“It’s disappointing when you’ve got a 7-2 lead,” Daniel Boone coach Rob Hoover said. “And then you’ve got a 7-6 lead with two innings to play – exactly what we wanted before the game. I told the guys, ‘You’ve got two innings to play. You’re up one with a shot at second place.’ And we just couldn’t shut the door.”
Connell Boyle’s two-run double off the left-field fence gave Science Hill a 12-9 lead. Tucker McPherson, Jackson and J.T. Torbett followed with insurance RBIs.
“Boyle came up with a great hit when it was a 10-9 game,” Edwards said. “That was a huge hit … because they’d answered back to make it 10-9. And for him to get that one off the wall – that was huge.”
McPherson was 2-for-4 with three RBIs and a walk. Catcher Matthew Beaird (1-for-2) walked twice, was hit by a pitch and had a two-run single that got Science Hill within 7-6 and chased left-handed starter Brandon Davis with one out in the fifth. He also threw out leadoff batter Josh Bacon on an attempted steal of second.
Addison Adams went 2-for-3, scored four runs and drove in a run. He walked and was hit by a pitch.
Kyle Ouellette, who entered hitting at team-best .532, was 2-for-6, but retired twice on hard-hit balls to left.
Starting pitcher Landon Knack was 2-for-5, and Matt Thigpen reached base three times, scored twice and had a sacrifice bunt.
Catcher Zach Peters was 3-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs for Boone. His three-run home run with two outs in the fourth gave the Trailblazers a 7-2 lead and setting the stage for Science Hill’s second comeback victory in three days.
“It just fuels the fire; that’s all it does,” Hoover said. “If we’re fortunate enough to win (in the district tournament opener), we’ll see see ‘em again. …
“(Peters) is playing well. We definitely hit the ball well enough to win. … We’ve gotta have guys step up and come in and be able to get some outs against really good competition.”
Bacon was 2-for-3 with a walk, a hit-batsman and an RBI. Daniel Cox was 2-for-4 with a walk and two runs. Cameron Clabough was 2-for-2 with a walk and an RBI and Keefauver was 2-for-4 with an RBI.
Science Hill hosts Cocke County tonight at 7 for Senior Night. The Trailblazers will host Unicoi County today at 6 p.m.