The Cyclones clubbed Unicoi County ace Clay Simpson for eight runs in four innings en route to an 11-0 six-inning mercy-rule win the winners’ bracket final at TVA Credit Union Ballpark on Monday.
“They did a good job of executing the game plan, and doing what we’ve done all year,” said Cyclones’ head coach Ryan Presnell. “And that is, be patient hitters, and when you get the opportunity, you’ve got to strike and strike big. And that’s what they did.”
In three district games, Elizabethton has outscored its opponents by a combined margin of 37-2. The Cyclones improved to 22-8 on the season and earned a berth in next week’s region tournament. Elizabethton also moved into Tuesday’s championship round at 8 p.m.
Unicoi fell to 19-13 and will have to battle out of the losers’ bracket to reach the region. The Blue Devils will play Sullivan East at 5 p.m. Tuesday in the losers’ bracket final. East eliminated South 12-7 in the losers’ bracket semifinal Monday night.
Patience pays off
Evan Carter and Corey Russell put their team ahead with back-to-back RBI singles in the third inning, and then the Cyclones took advantage of Simpson’s wildness.
An error started the inning before a hit batter put two runners on base. With one out, Elizabethton drew three straight walks, two of those forcing in runs and giving the Cyclones a 4-0 lead.
With the bases still loaded, Russell roped a two-run single to right field. Evan Perkins delivered a sacrifice fly to make it 7-0. Elizabethton finished things off when Russell stole home as the Blue Devils messed up a rundown situation.
Tre Shoun was in a groove on the mound. He got a little early help with some baserunning mistakes by Unicoi, but allowed only five hits in the complete-game performance. He walked one and struck out three.
Shoun was backed by a defense that racked up four double plays, including the game-ender with the bases loaded when Matthew Dailey tagged a runner and then threw to first base.
“Matthew, he saved me right there,” said Shoun. “I couldn’t ask for any better on that one.”
Shoun needed only 70 pitches, and the Cyclones have used a total of only 219 in winning three games.
“We know we don’t have too many guys who can just power it by them,” said Shoun. “So we just throw it in there and let our defense make the plays. And it works, our defense works hard and makes plays for us.”
Leaders of the pack
Russell finished with two hits and three RBIs to lead the Cyclones. Logan Estep also added two hits while Carter had two RBIs and scored twice. Perkins drove in a pair of runs.
Sullivan East 12, Sullivan South 7
Things looked a little shaky in the early going, but the Patriots came through when it counted.
“I’m very proud of the kids,” said East head coach Mike Breuninger. “We talked about situations like this during the season. We feel we’re never out of a game, no matter what. We got down three runs tonight and the kids proved it. They battled back and had success.”
South jumped ahead 7-4 in the fourth inning by scoring three runs on a bases-loaded infield bleeder that was thrown away. But the Patriots stormed back to take a 9-7 lead, and then tacked on some insurance.
“I think it was a matter of fighting through it,” said Breuninger, whose team improved to 17-12. “They had three runs in that inning, and it could have been a lot worse. (Freshman Seth) Chafin came in and did a real good job on the mound. And we got the job done at the plate.”
Chafin earned the win in relief. He allowed just one hit and one unearned run in three innings.
Elias Arnold led the East attack with three hits and two RBIs. Dylan White drove in a pair of runs.
South was led by Drew Creech, who drove in five runs. The Rebels got a pair of RBIs from Andrew Noah.
Breuninger said he doesn’t know who will start on the mound against Unicoi, but he has some options.
“We’ve got a couple of kids,” he said. “I will have to sleep on it.”