GREENEVILLE, Tenn. —West Greene pushed across two runs in the top of the fifth inning and then scored five in the seventh to come from behind for an 8-4 win over Cumberland Gap at the District 2-AA Tournament on Friday.
The loss ends the Panthers’s season with a record of 11-11. West Greene (7-13) advanced to the double-elimination portion of the tournament.
“Effort and attitude was never a problem with this group. We had a lot of young kids that grew up, not just on the field, these kids go through a lot off the field in school and at home,” CGHS coach Nick Huckaby said. “People don’t realize what kids go through at home on a daily basis, but they’re able to come out and give me their full effort in practice and in games. I really appreciate them giving me that.”
Senior catcher Brandon Bailey drove in the first three Cumberland Gap runs with a pair of singles and scored the fourth on a Devon Helton ground out after advancing to third on an error in the outfield. Bailey had plated Hunter Bayless in the first inning and his liner to right brought in Bayless and Gavin Burns in the third as the Panthers went up 4-1.
Bailey was also big defensively throughout the game blocking numerous balls in the dirt with runners on base. That was especially key with a lot of foul territory behind the plate at the home park of the Greeneville Astros.
“He saved us a ton of runs back there. Bailey’s a three-year starter now, I wish I could see him continue to develop because he’s come miles and miles from where he started,” Huckaby said. “He’s sore from using his body so much. He’s the only catcher we’ve got and he’s caught just about every inning of every game this season. I can’t say enough about his heart and effort tonight.”
Helton went five innings for the Gap. He gave up three runs on six hits while striking out three and walking three. The Buffaloes scored once in the top of the first and had the bases loaded with one out, but Helton fielded a comebacker and started a 1-2-3 double-play to end the inning.
Helton kept West Greene off the board from there until the fifth. Austin Greenlee singled to score Tanner Earley and, later in the inning, courtesy runner Adam Ricker scored on a sacrifice fly by Tanner Lambert to make it a one-run game.
Braxton Potter settled in after the third and shut down the Panthers the rest of the way. Potter finished by allowing four runs, two earned, on seven hits while striking out 12 and walking three.
Bayless took over on the mound for Cumberland Gap to start the sixth. He gave up a lead-off single to Joseph Jones and Jones stole second. Bayless made a sliding catch between home and the pitcher’s mound on a bunt attempt and then picked Jones off at second. Jonathan Lorens made a leaping catch to snag a liner by Tyler Earley at short to end the inning.
Tanner Earley was hit by a pitch leading off the seventh and Huckaby went to the mound for long meeting with his infield.
“It went through my mind (to change pitchers) but Hunter is such a competitor though,” Huckaby said. “All of our guys are kind of the same. Same velocity, same curve ball and that’s not a bad thing. They’ve just got to grow and develop.”
After several pick-off attempts, Earley was off and running as Potter hit a 2-2 grounder to short. Lorens was thinking of turning two, but Earley beat his throw to second and everybody was safe. Bayless got a strikeout, but a double-steal put runners at second and third and Greenlee was intentionally walked to load the bases.
Bayless fell behind 3-0 to Lambert, battled back to get two strikes, and then walked him to force in the tying run. Lorens relieved and John Douglas bounced one off the plate. Lorens fielded the high chopper behind the mound, but his only play was to first as Potter scored the go-ahead run. Jones added a two-run double and Eli Gass an RBI infield single to make it 8-4.
“You know, we didn’t make mistakes. We walked a couple of people, an intentional walk, they hit a ball on a play where they’re moving. It happens,” Huckaby said. “They hit a ball into the Bermuda Triangle behind the mound, they chop one off the plate that’s too high to turn a 1-2-3 like we did early in the game. If that ball doesn’t hit off the plate, we turn a double-play and we’re in tied. It wasn’t that we did anything wrong, those things can just happen in baseball. It’s sad because I felt like we did everything right to win the game. Not to take anything away from them, it’s just sometimes you don’t get the breaks.”
Burns and Joe Gidens both walked to open the Panther seventh. Gidens was forced out at second as Bayless reached on a fielder’s choice. Bayless stole second, but Potter got a pop out and and strikeout to end the game.
Jones led West Greene with three hits, including a double and drove in two. Greenlee had two singles and two RBI while Tanner Earley singled, walked, was hit by a pitch and scored three runs.
For the Panthers Bailey singled twice to drive in three runs and scored one. Bayless singled twice and scored two runs. Burns singled and scored a run, Lorens doubled and Gage Barnett singled.
“All year we’ve been thin with our pitching and when I say that I mean mostly young,” Huckaby added. “Devon Helton is a junior but he didn’t play last year. We’ve got Hunter and Johnny as sophomores and those are our guys. It’s tough on young guys out there on the mound in pressure situations. I’m not saying the pressure got to them, we just didn’t really have an arm to go to this year and that’s the biggest thing.”
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|Braxton Potter and Austin Greenlee; Devon Helton, Hunter Bayless (6), Jonatthan Lorens (7) and Brandon Bailey. W — Pottter. L — Bayless.|