JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Oct. 5, 2016) – Junior outfielder Aaron Maher (Brentwood, Tenn.) went 3-for-5 with four RBI and freshman catcher Jackson Greer (Knoxville, Tenn.) drove in the game-winning run with a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth en route to lifting the Blue Team to an 11-10 series-clinching win over Gold on Wednesday night in the ETSU Blue-Gold World Series from Thomas Stadium.
The teams combined to score 21 runs on 26 hits, but after Gold scored three runs in the top of the eighth to go ahead, 10-9, Blue answered with the two-run ninth inning to claim the comeback win and Fall Classic Championship.
Joining Maher with multi-hit games for Team Blue were red-shirt junior Chris Cook (Kingsport, Tenn.) and Micah Wheeler (Oak Ridge, Tenn.). Cook went 2-for-5 with an RBI and run scored, while Wheeler doubled, tripled, walked, scored two runs and drove in one. Caleb Longley (Cleveland, Tenn.) – who scored the tying run in the ninth – drove in two runs and walked twice.
Russell Koesters (Kingsport, Tenn.) earned the win, while senior Connor Bartow (Jonesborough, Tenn.) gave the Blue Team its only scoreless appearance.
Eight of the nine batters for Team Gold registered a hit, while junior infielder Christian Bailey (Kingsport, Tenn.) led the charge with a three-hit night. Hunter Parker (Chattanooga, Tenn.), Cullen Smith (Lebanon, Tenn.), Hagen Owenby (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Blake Rowlett (Clarksville, Tenn.) all totaled two-hit games. Owenby, Rowlett and Cade Gilbert (Ringgold, Ga.) all drove in two runs.
Senior righty Peyton Taylor (Kingsport, Tenn.) suffered the loss as he allowed two runs on two hits in one-third of an inning. Senior left-hander Jamin McCann (Kingsport, Tenn.) gave the Gold Team three scoreless innings out of the bullpen. McCann scattered two hits and struck out three.
“It was an entertaining game from a fan’s perspective, but I was not pleased with how we pitched and defended,” said head coach Tony Skole. “Out of the eight pitchers that took the mound, only Jamin McCann and Connor Bartow were effective. Our pitching staff has had the upper hand for most of our fall season, but that was not the case tonight. I give our hitters credit, though. They were challenged before the game and rose to the occasion.”
The Gold Team stormed out of the gates early as they scored two runs in the first and tacked on another in the top of the third to take a 3-0 lead. In the first inning, Hunter drew a leadoff walk and scored on Smith’s RBI single to center. After Smith moved to third on an Owenby single, Bailey plated the second run of the frame on an RBI ground out. Smith scored again in the third as he reached via a walk and scored on a two-out RBI single from Rowlett.
The lead didn’t last for long as the Blue Team answered with a three-run third and pushed across two in the fourth to take a 5-3 lead. Cook had an RBI ground out, while Maher connected on a two-run home run over the wall in left-center. An inning later, Wheeler doubled home Scott Hoilman (Johnson City, Tenn.), while Wheeler crossed the dish on Nick Sainato’s (Madison, Ala.) single to center.
The see-saw game continued as Gold plated four in the top of the fifth to take a 7-5 lead, but Blue responded with two more runs in the fifth and sixth innings to recapture a 9-7 advantage.
The Gold team continued to fight back as they used a three-run eighth to go back ahead, 10-9. Doug McFarland (Monhton, Pa.) led off the inning with a single and Parker immediately followed with another base hit. With runners on first and second Smith laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt – and when Ethan Rice (Unicoi, Tenn.) could not handle the throw at first – both runners came around to score. Rowlett would later capped off the scoring with an RBI single to center to give Gold the one-run lead.
However, Blue had one last punch in them and they connected with the final blow in the bottom of the ninth to secure the comeback. With one and nobody on, Longley reached when Gilbert dropped a fly ball, while Rice walked to put runners on first and second. Senior Jammer Strickland (Knoxville, Tenn.) delivered a game-tying base hit, while Greer delivered the game-winning hit to score Strickland for the series clincher.
Despite Blue clinching the series, the teams will hold one final fall scrimmage Friday afternoon at 3:30 p.m.
“We have had a very successful fall season,” added Skole. “We have made some progress in establishing an identity of our ball club, but we still have a ways to go. I’m excited for this next phase of development to begin. Over the next eight weeks we will focus on our strength and conditioning regimen. During this phase we also will be working with them on their skill sets. We will focus on improving individual weaknesses, and use this time to continue their growth and development needed to be successful at this level.”
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