Sullivan East won those first two innings, and held on for a 3-2 victory over Happy Valley in the District 1-AA baseball tournament at Joe O’Brien Field on Saturday.
East, which improved to 15-12, advanced to take on Sullivan South in the winners’ bracket semifinals. That game will be played Sunday at noon at TVA Credit Union Ballpark.
In the other winners’ bracket semifinal Sunday, Elizabethton will meet Unicoi County at 2:30 p.m. Unicoi topped Johnson County, 7-2.
Happy Valley dropped into the losers’ bracket and will take on Johnson County at 5 p.m. in an elimination game. The Warriors fell to 8-17 on the season.
“It was a tough loss, but I am proud of the way our guys competed,” said Happy Valley head coach Brad Hill.
DEFENSE THE KEY
Sullivan East’s pitchers Tanner Leffew and Luke Hale each allowed just one hit, but combined to walk nine batters. The Patriots made it work by turning four double plays.
“The key for us was our defense,” said East head coach Mike Breuninger. “The pitchers got themselves into trouble, but the defense bailed us out several times.”
Three of the double plays were turned on grounders while the other was a strikeout and a pickoff of a runner.
East took the lead in the bottom of the first inning on Dylan Bartley’s RBI grounder.
Happy Valley responded in the second inning when Jacob Absher delivered a two-out, two-run single.
The Warriors’ 2-1 edge didn’t last long as Perry Casaday’s two-out single in the bottom of the second tied the score. An error plated the third run.
Casaday had both of East’s hits in the game.
Bryce Carter took the loss despite a gutsy performance. He went the distance, allowing two hits and just one earned run. He had seven strikeouts, but issued seven walks.
“Bryce didn’t have his best command today, but he competed and worked himself out of some jams,” said Hill. “To hold East to just three runs, one earned, is an impressive outing. They are one of the best offenses in the area.”