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Warriors rally to beat Longhorns

Jeff Birchfield • May 3, 2018 at 9:27 PM

Eli Fleenor had a walk-off single as Happy Valley rallied from three runs down in the final inning to defeat Johnson County 6-5 in the play-in game of the District 1-AA baseball tournament Thursday evening at TVA Credit Union Ballpark.

The Warriors were down 5-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh, when two costly errors made it just a one-run game. Courtesy runner Dylan Willis then stole home with the tying run, setting up the final moment for Fleenor, who responded with a perfectly hit ball out of reach of the third baseman and shortstop into left field — scoring Nolan Easlic for the game-winner.

“It was crazy. I came up to the plate and my teammates were telling me not to do too much,” said Fleenor, who reached base four times. “I knew I had to hit it somehow. When the ball went into left field, that was amazing. I’ve never been that excited, ever. I’ve played with this group of seniors since we’ve been able to pick up a ball and it’s really exciting to keep playing.”

Happy Valley improved to 11-12 and will play Elizabethton today at 6 p.m. Johnson County ended its season at 6-14.

Warriors coach Brad Hill said he still had faith entering the seventh when his team came up for what could have been their final at-bats of the season.

“I told the guys I was really proud of how we battled back,” Hill said. “We faced some adversity in the middle of the game and it would have been easy to have given up. But we didn’t get our heads down and we had some really good at-bats in that final inning. It was a big night at the end.”

Kevin Whitaker pitched 4 2/3 innings before Easlic worked the final 2 1/3 innings for the win.

Easlic was 3 for 4 to lead Happy Valley at the plate, while Whitaker and Bailey Conley also had big hits. 

Another big role was played by Willis, who scored twice — a run to put HV up 2-0 in the first and the game-tying run in the seventh.

“Dylan did a great job,” Hill said. “He’s a real headsy player and that’s why we have him in there. He can take advantage of any opportunity he gets. That was a great slide to get the tying run at home.”

Johnson County had one run in the fourth, three in the fifth and an insurance run in the top of the seventh.

Reise Stout was 2 for 4 with two RBIs and Josh Tierney was 2 for 4 with two runs scored. Shane Greer also drove in a run, while Jayden Joiner threw 6 2/3 innings before giving the ball to Ben Howard at the end. However, the Longhorns were undone by six errors.

“That’s been our kryptonite,” Johnson County coach Pete Pavusek said. “It seems like the right side has just done us in. Oh well, what do you do but move on to the next thing. Baseball is a small part of life. We want to be good citizens, good people and I feel like we have good kids in Johnson County.”

SOFTBALL

Johnson County 15

Sullivan Central 5, 6 inn.

ELIZABETHTON—The Lady Longhorns won the 1-AA softball play-in game behind a sterling performance by Emmy Miller.

Going 3 for 3 and scoring three times, Miller garnered all four of her RBIs on one swing of the bat — a fifth-inning grand slam that put the game away.

Abby Cornett was 3 for 4 with two RBIs for the Lady Longhorns. Courtney Brooks and Cassidy Lakatos added two hits apiece while Hannah Brooks belted a two-run homer in a 1-for-1 showing, drew three walks and scored three times.

Courtney Brooks pitched all six innings for Johnson County, totaling five strikeouts and yielding only two earned runs.

The Lady Cougars’ Jasmine Sheffield batted 3 for 4. Courtney Willis had two RBIs in a 2-for-3 effort.

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