HARROGATE, Tenn. — Jake Elliott struck out seven while allowing just two unearned runs on four hits in a complete game and also drove in three runs as the Cumberland Gap Panthers celebrated Senior Day with a 9-2 win over Campbell County on Thursday.
It was the fourth straight win for Cumberland Gap as they improved to 13-9 on the year.
“My curve ball was working really well today. I had some arm trouble early in the season, but I think I’ve got my arm where I want it,” Elliott said. “We’re starting to snowball and you can’t complain about that, especially heading into the district tournament.”
The Panthers wasted little time in taking the lead. Hunter Bayless and Gavin Burns both walked to start the bottom of the first inning and one out later Nathan Hatmaker delivered an RBI single. Elliott followed with a ground out to short that scored Burns and an RBI single by senior Brad Fleeman made it 3-0.
Cumberland Gap kept going in the second inning. Joe Giddens singled, but was caught stealing. Bayless walked again and Burns singled. Burns was retired at second on a fielder’s choice grounder by Brandon Bailey, but Hatmaker and Elliott followed with RBI singles to stretch the lead to 5-0.
Matt Wade reached on an error to start the third inning and a Nolan Rutherford single put runners at the corners and Wade was able to score on a balk.
Campbell County got one run in the top of the sixth, but the Panthers answered with three in the bottom of the frame. Bayless lined a shot into the left for a single and advanced all the way to third when the ball was misplayed in the outfield. Burns followed with a base hit to bring Bayless in. Bailey reached on an error and one out later Elliott sent a high drive to deep left that was misplayed for a two-base error as Burns scored. Fleeman added a sacrifice fly to deep right to make it 9-1.
A double and an error allowed the Cougars to score again in the seventh, but Elliott worked out of the inning to finish off the game.
“Jake’s a senior and he’s probably somebody I’ve been harder on than anybody in my two years here. He’s tell you that, too, but it’s just to try and benefit him,” Panther coach Nick Huckaby said. “He stepped up and he’s had some great games for us. When he’s pitching like that, throwing his curve for strikes, he’s hard to beat. He was on tonight and only one guy really hit him hard.”
Earlier this week the Panthers took both ends of a home-and-home district series with Chuckey-Doak. Monday Wade fired a five-hitter with three strikeout and one walk as Cumberland Gap beat the Knights 7-1.
Monday, the Panthers got a two-run single from Burns in the first inning. In the fourth it was Gidens ripping an RBI double and Bayless an RBI single that pushed the lead to 4-0.
The Knights got one run in the fifth, but Cumberland Gap answered as Elliott tripled and then scored on a Burns single. In the sixth, Nolan Rutherford was hit by a pitch before Bayless and Bailey delivered doubles to set the final at 7-1.
Tuesday the Panthers needed some late game heroics after Chuckey-Doak rallied to tie their game at nine in the sixth. Bailey’s fielder’s choice grounder brought Joe Gidens home with what proved the be the winning run in the top of the seventh as Cumberland Gap held on for a 10-9 win.
Bayless had three hits and scored three runs in that game while Burns had two hits and scored twice. Bailey belted a pair of doubles while Gidens and Elliott also had hits for the Panthers.
“Just a couple of weeks ago we went 1-4 in a week and you hate to see that late in the season,” Huckaby said. “But they’ve bounced back. Seniors are stepping up, juniors are stepping up, sophomores, freshmen, everybody. Swings are coming around, we’re throwing strikes and our defense is doing a lot better.”
Those two wins put Cumberland Gap at 7-3 in district play with two games left to play. The Panthers host Grainger today in a make-up game and will visit South Greene Monday. Two wins would make Cumberland Gap the number two seed for the District 2-AA Tournament.