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Elizabethton, Unicoi County advance in 1-AA baseball

Douglas Fritz • May 5, 2018 at 9:36 PM

If Ryan Presnell had asked his team for an eight-run inning, a mercy-rule win, no errors, and for his pitchers to neatly get the job done in 64 pitches, he may as well have requested the moon.

Moon delivered.

Elizabethton crushed it at the plate, was flawless in the field, and three pitchers worked in economy mode as the Cyclones blasted Sullivan East 14-0 in the District 1-AA baseball tournament at TVA Credit Union Ballpark on Saturday.

“The big thing we wanted to stress today was solid defense, so if you get a lead you can maintain it,” said Cyclones’ head coach Ryan Presnell. “Or if you get behind, you can work from it. Because if you give up those innings where you’re making errors and giving up a couple of runs, at this point in the season it can really bite you.”

The Cyclones improved to 21-8 and moved into Monday’s winners’ bracket final against Unicoi County at 5 p.m. The Blue Devils (19-12) earned their spot with a 5-0 win over Sullivan Central.

In the losers’ bracket, Sullivan South defeated Happy Valley 4-1 in a game that featured only five hits as Austin Hale out-dueled Nolan Easlic. It was a season-ender for the Warriors while South (12-13) advanced to play Sullivan Central in an elimination game Sunday at 1 p.m.

Quick start

For the second straight game, Elizabethton got off to a fast start. The Cyclones scored in the first inning on Evan Carter’s two-run double.

“At tournament time, we want come out from the get go and play seven strong innings of baseball,” said Presnell. “It takes a lot of focus and a lot of energy. But that’s what we’ve done all year. We lost two games early, and we’ve been playing tournament ball all year.”

Carter later added a second two-run double and finished the game with five RBIs. He said the Cyclones have been aggressive at the plate.

“We’re attacking the fastball, waiting for the first thing we see,” said Carter, who was also the winning pitcher. “We came out, we hit the ball and attacked early. We played good defense and just put it in play.”

Standing out

Logan Estep finished 2 for 4, including a home run that gave Elizabethton a 3-0 lead in the second inning.

“We’re having good approaches when we come up to the plate,” said Estep. “We’re just staying through and sitting on our pitches.”

Ethan Eggleston totaled three hits and three runs while Ryan Wetzel totaled two hits and three runs. Matthew Dailey was 3 for 3 with an RBI.

Unicoi County 5, Sullivan Central 0

Caleb Wilson gave up a leadoff triple and then shut the door with a bang.

He worked 6 1/3 innings, allowing just one hit and recording seven strikeouts. His best weapon was his curveball.

“It had some late break in it, and a lot of extra life the last couple of innings,” said Wilson. “I felt good all around and spotted it up pretty good.

“Honestly that first kid squared it up good. It was a good piece of hitting. But I just tried to pitch my game.”

Wilson’s four walks and some lengthy at-bats forced his pitch count to the point Blue Devils’ head coach Chad Gillis decided to take him out in seventh inning.

“It was a tough decision,” said Gillis. “He threw well the whole game. They ran his pitch count up. They had some guys go up fighting with seven, eight, nine pitches. I had Clay (Simpson) ready to go if (Peyton) Whitson couldn’t get it done, but he got it done for us.”

Whitson got two outs to close the door.

Scoring recap

The game was scoreless until the bottom of the fourth inning. With a runner on first base, Unicoi got a two-out single from Whitson, and the ball got past the center fielder. Brett Strother scored on the error and Whitson made it all the way to third. Keaton Casey followed with an RBI single to make it 2-0.

Unicoi broke the game open in the bottom of the fifth. Wilson’s RBI single was followed by Simpson’s booming triple to the warning track in center field — just in front of the 400-foot sign. Then Strother beat out an infield single to plate Simpson for a 5-0 lead.

Standing out

Owen Nicholson, Strother, Casey and Simpson each had two hits for the Blue Devils.

Matt Long had a triple for the Cougars.

Sullivan South 4, Happy Valley 1

Drew Creech hit a first-inning home run to get the Rebels rolling, and Hale made it stand up.

Hale went the distance, allowing four hits and one unearned run. He walked two and struck out seven.

For Happy Valley, Easlic gave up just one hit. He walked five and struck out four. Landon Morefield had two hits for the Warriors, who finished at 11-15.

“I’m proud of the way the guys played tonight,” said Happy Valley head coach Brad Hill. “Nolan threw a great game, and we played really good defense behind him. But we weren’t able to come through with the knocks when we had runners in scoring position.”

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