The Cyclones’ thrilling postseason run ran into a thud as the Decatur County squad looked solid in every phase of a 7-3 win in the upper bracket championship of the TSSAA Class AA state baseball tournament Thursday at Smyrna’s field.
Riverside (27-9) will play Greeneville (27-11) in Friday’s championship at 3 p.m. (EDT) at Middle Tennessee State University’s Reese Smith Field. Greeneville earned its spot with Jacques Gillespie-Taylor’s walk-off three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning to beat Forrest 7-5 in the lower bracket championship.
Elizabethton ended its season with a record of 28-10, finishing with a share of third place in the state. It was the first time since a 1958 runner-up appearance that the Cyclones had won a game in the state tournament.
But this was a tough finish as Elizabethton had more errors (4) than hits (2) or runs (3).
“Any time you have more errors than runs, baseball-wise you’re not going to be successful,” said Cyclone head coach Ryan Presnell, whose team surrendered three unearned runs among the first five scored by Riverside. “But honestly today doesn’t define this baseball club. I think everybody who has seen them play knows that. I think we still go down as one of the better teams here.”
The final inning
Down by six runs, the Cyclones scored twice and went down swinging. Presnell said his team never gave up.
“There’s never lost hope for a team that loves Christ the way they do,” said Presnell. “That inning will last in my memory for a long time, and I was so happy we could scrap that out and go out with a fight.”
After a long talk with the players in left field, Presnell guided his team across the field to congratulate the Riverside players and coaches.
Riverside’s Spencer Odle
The Cyclones never got comfortable at the plate against Odle. He locked in and breezed through Elizabethton’s tough lineup. He allowed just two hits, three runs — one earned — with two walks and six strikeouts.
“It was a lot like looking across the field at yourself,” said Presnell. “Their pitcher was a lot like Tre Shoun. I know what it’s like to sit on the other side of a guy like Tre Shoun. It’s incredibly frustrating.”
The only real setback for Odle was Logan Estep’s second-inning blast over the left field fence that made it 3-1.
“The kid has come up big in clutch situations all year with the stick,” said Presnell.
Needing to beat Riverside twice to reach Friday, the Cyclones faced a tall task against the Panthers — who had won both of their previous state games.
And Elizabethton had to do it without Evan Carter, Matthew Dailey or Corey Russell on the mound. Each of those pitchers were not eligible because of the TSSAA’s pitch-count rules. Shoun was unavailable despite the box showing him with only 24 pitches on Wednesday. Presnell said the box score was incorrect and Shoun threw more than 25 pitches.
Elizabethton used Lawson Wagner, Ethan Eggleston and Karson Dillard against Riverside. Wagner surrendered five runs, two earned, in three innings. Eggleston gave up two runs in two innings. Dillard threw two shutout innings.
At the plate
While Odle was dominanting, Riverside was supporting him with two runs in the first, one in the second, and two in the third to build a 5-1 lead.
Lee Derryberry drove in three runs, Will Long had two RBIs, and Owen Bartholomew totaled two hits.