Trailblazers, Pioneers meet in postseason play
By Chris Shields
While their regular season journeys couldn’t have been more different, the two seasons converged in the postseason when they faced off in the first round of the district tournament.
After finishing the season third in the conference, Boone (18-14, 9-5) opened the district tournament against the six seed who just happened to be county rival Crockett (12-19, 4-10).
The Blazers and Pioneers split their two regular season contests, leaving no clear favorite in the May 3 meeting at Dobyns-Bennett in Kingsport.
Boone sent lefty Daniel Cox to the mound while the Pioneers selected hurler Chase Miller.
Cox was more than ready for his postseason start.
The Blazer left-hander tossed six innings of one-run baseball, carrying a no-hitter through more than four innings. He struck out seven Pioneer batters and, aside from four walks, stifled the Crockett bats all evening.
After two-and-a-half innings of scoreless baseball, the Blazer offense came alive.
Boone opened the inning with two singles, before Taylor Smith’s shot to left drove in the contest’s first two runs.
A Crockett error followed by a Hunter Summie double allowed the Blazers to add three more runs in the inning before the Pioneers got the third out.
The five-run fifth put the Pioneer offense in need of an answer, but Cox wouldn’t allow it.
After a scoreless fourth, Cox’s no hit bid was broken up in the top of the fifth, but the Blazers added to their advantage in the home-half of the inning.
Trey Combest and Jacob Davis who had ignited the Boone offense in the third inning, once again sparked the Blazer bats in the fifth, each driving in a run.
Cox capped off the inning on offense with a two-run single to push the Boone advantage to 9-0.
The Pioneers would get out of the inning with no further damage, but a scoreless sixth and seventh gave Boone the win.
Davis led the Blazer bats with a perfect day at the plate, finishing 2-for-2 with an RBI and two runs.
Fortunately for the Pioneers, changes in the conference tournament this year set up a consolation bracket, allowing teams to lose twice before being eliminated.
While the Blazers advanced to play in the conference semifinals on May 4, the Pioneers would have to fight their way out of the consolation bracket, starting with Volunteer.
Boone can’t hold
on against D-B
Prior to the start of the baseball season, Boone Coach Rob Hoover acknowledged that his team wouldn’t have just one ace on their pitching staff; they would have two.
The Blazers’ success this season has had a lot to do with those two young men — Cox and Daniel Wagner.
While Cox was given the nod to open the conference tournament against Crockett, Wagner was picked to go up against the Indians of Dobyns-Bennett a day later at Volunteer High School.
Zach Peters’ first inning home run gave the Blazers an early lead and Combest drove home another run an inning later to put Boone up 2-0.
While Wagner was nearly perfect through three innings, the Indians got to him in the fourth, producing three runs for their first lead in the contest.
Boone had opportunities to tie or reclaim the lead, but the Blazer bats couldn’t answer with runners in scoring position.
The Tribe added another run in the sixth inning and held off the Boone bats in the seventh to advance with a 4-2 victory.
The loss dropped the Blazers to the consolation bracket, setting up an elimination contest against Sullivan South on May 6, but the contest was pushed to May 7 due to rain.
The objective was simple for the Pioneers in their second contest of the district tournament — win and survive. A loss would mean the end of their season.
Playing against tournament host Volunteer on May 4, the Pioneers staved off elimination for another day in an 11-5 win.
Volunteer struck first with a run in the top of the first inning, but Crockett knotted the contest in the team’s first at bat of the game with a John Long homer.
An inning later, the Pioneers took the lead for good, pushing six runs across the plate spurred on by three Falcon errors.
A three-run fourth brought Volunteer back into the game and after holding Crockett scoreless, another run in the fifth pulled the Falcons within two.
The Pioneers answered in the home half of the fifth by scoring four more runs to push the lead back to six.
That’s where the score would remain, as Crockett extended their season with the win.
Heath Ricker pitched a complete game for the Pioneers, helping Crockett to the win despite three errors in the field.
Matt Scalf led the Pioneer bats finishing 2-for-4 with two RBIs and Luke Hopson reached base four times, scoring twice and driving in another.
The Pioneer win set up a matchup on May 5 against Tennessee High, but the contest was pushed back due to rain.
If both Crockett and Boone win their next games, the county rivals would once again face each other to see who continues on.