HARROGATE, Tenn. — Senior third baseman Jake Elliott laced a base hit to right field to score Nathan Hatmaker with the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning as the Cumberland Gap Panthers walked off with a 6-5 win over Greeneville on Tuesday.
Elliott’s shot was the fifth straight hit for the Panthers in the seventh as they rallied after watching the Devils put up four runs in the top of the inning to take a 5-3 lead.
“I told them that’s the type of facing adversity that I had yet to see in my tenure here. Hopefully this is turning a corner,” said Cumberland Gap coach Nick Huckaby. “We had that ballgame won, then gave it up and came back to win. It’s a good win and a great baseball game. Hopefully it’s something that can propel us forward.”
Hatmaker led a ten-hit attack for Cumberland Gap with three hits, including an RBI double in the seventh. Elliott doubled and singled, reached on an error and walked and drove in two runs. Brad Fleeman added a pair of RBI doubles while Brandon Bailey had and RBI single and Matt Wade and Hunter Bayless both singled and scored a run.
Wade pitched the first three innings and allowed just an unearned run on two hits while striking out three and walking one. Hatmaker worked the final four innings and surrendered four unearened runs on five hits while striking out five and walking four.
Cumberland Gap struck first with an unearned run in the bottom of the second. Elliott reached on an error and Fleeman followed with an RBI double for a 1-0 lead.
Greeneville tied things up in the top of the third. Tyler Renner walked with one out and Matt Barham reached on an error after hitting a tailor-made double-play ball. Zach Finchum was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Mike Lane sent an RBI single through the left side. Wade worked out of the jam by getting a pop up and a grounder to third to end the inning with the score still tied at 1.
Neither team would score until the bottom of the sixth, when things took a scary turn. Hatmaker’s bat broke at the handle and the barrell went flying and hit Finchum, Greeneville’s pitcher, right around his jaw. Finchum was unconsious for several minutes and left the field in an ambulance, but reports later came that he would be okay.
“I played in college and in four different wood bat leagues. The National High School Association says they don’t want to use wood bats because of things like that. I never saw anythin like that in a wood bat league,” said Huckaby. “The closest I’ve seen is in college when my roommate got hit with a comebacker. The bat just came apart and broke in a weird place. I’ve never seen that happen and Mike Poore, the umpire out in the field, said he’s been umpiring for 16 years and he’s never seen anything like that happen. Our thoughts go out to that pitcher. He is okay from what I’ve heard and I’ll keep in touch with coach Shepherd and see how he’s doing. It was very scary.”
Meanwhile, Hatmaker singled on the play and Hunter Hendrickson took over on the mound. After Bailey sacrificed Hatmaker to second, Elliott delivered an RBI double and Fleeman followed with an RBI double of his own deep to straight away rightfield for a 3-1 Panther lead.
In the top of the seventh, Renner again worked a one-out walk and Barham singled to center.
Hendrickson then send a slow dribbler between the pitcher’s mound and first base and was safe when Fleeman couldn’t hang on to Hatmaker’s late toss. After getting a strikeout, Hatmaker got Wagner to hit a lazy fly ball to right, but it fell in as two runs scored. Drew Patterson and D.J. Ball added RBI singles as the Devils took a 5-3 lead.
Cumberland Gap had the top of their order coming up in the bottom of the inning and they scored three runs without making an out. Bayless lined a hit to center, Wade sent a grounder through the left side and Hatmaker doubled to center to bring in one run. Bailey scorched a grounder through the hole between first and second to tie it up and Elliott followed with his walk-off hit to right.
“Jake had struggled a little at the plate but he’s coming around. He wasn’t striking out and I told him baseball’s funny game, just keep at it, keep putting it in play and hits are going to come,” Huckaby said. “From a senior, what more can you ask for. He did a great job tonight.”
Cumberland Gap (7-4, 3-2 in district play) returns to action Thursday at Union County. Greeneville is set to host Gate City, Va., today.
— — —
Greeneville… 001000 4 — 5 7 1
Cumb. Gap…010 002 3 — 6 10 2
Finchum, Hendrickson and King; Wade, Hatmaker (4) and Bailey. W — Hatmaker. L — Hendrickson.