By TREY WILLIAMS
David Crockett first-year baseball coach Spencer Street’s up-and-down debut nearly ended with a tournament high note.
The Pioneers, coming off a 9-22 season, finished 14-16, and they were this close to beating preseason favorite Tennessee High for the second straight time on the Vikings’ home field. Crockett opened District 1-AAA play Friday at Tod Houston Field in Bristol, and trailed 2-1 with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth.
But the Vikings escaped, pulling away for a 4-1 victory that put a bittersweet cap on Street’s inaugural campaign.
The positives included crafty senior left-hander Luke Adams pitching aggressively against a potent lineup in a hitter-friendly ballpark. Adams, who got the victory when the Pioneers stunned Tennessee High 13-7 in Bristol on March 18, allowed two hits, a walk and hit two batters in 4 1/3 innings in the rematch.
Grady Cash and Cade Larkins also showed heart in delivering hits off hard-throwing reliever Gavin Cross (88-90 mph) while trailing 4-1 in the seventh. But some base-running blunders, a balk, a throwing error and a wild pitch spelled doom for the Pioneers.
“We had a couple of mental mistakes and you just can’t do that in a game like this,” Street said. “We didn’t play well enough to win and they did. … But there’s not any quit in ‘em. We felt like we really turned the corner about a month ago with how we compete. And they did it till the end, they fought. It didn’t turn out our way, but nobody can say we didn’t fight until the end. That says a lot about the guys on my staff and what we preach and those guys buying in. It’s been a fun year, but we came up short.”
The future appears bright. Sophomore Cody Wheeley and junior Cade Larkins tied for the team lead in home runs (four) and were first and second, respectively, in RBIs. Larkins hit a blistering .467 and Wheeley batted .368.
Freshman shortstop Garrett Leonard, who left the district tournament loss with an apparent ankle injury in the fifth inning, hit .321 after his varsity promotion helped spark a midseason turnaround.
“He has been a leader for us without saying anything,” Street said. “Just the way he goes about his business says a lot about who he is.”
Grady Cash (.384) and Landon Quillen (.346) also had productive seasons.
Daniel Boone Baseball
It looked like a breakthrough postseason run was beginning to take shape for Daniel Boone baseball coach Rob Hoover. The Trailblazers (18-12) finished 7-5 in the Big Seven Conference and surpassed preseason favorite Tennessee High for the No. 3 seed.
And after escaping sixth-seeded Cherokee, 3-2, in its district opener behind the strong pitching of junior Tennessee commitment Cade Elliott on Friday, the Trailblazers built a 4-1 lead against second-seeded Science Hill on Saturday.
Senior catcher Logan Rivers hit a two-run home against Science Hill, and RBIs from Cole Bishop and Brody Goodman stretched Boone’s lead to 4-1 in the fifth. The lead was still 4-2 in the seventh.
But Hunter Adams left after six innings and 118 pitches, and Matthew Levi’s two-run home run forced extra innings. The ‘Toppers won 5-4 in 10 innings for yet another nail-biting, postseason victory in the series.
Science Hill also avoided a regular-season sweep to Boone by erasing a 3-1 deficit with three runs in the bottom of the sixth one day after Elliott beat Science Hill to snap a 16-game skid in the series. It was part of an undefeated record this season at home for Boone, which also split with Dobyns-Bennett and Tennessee High to help accomplish the feat.
Tennessee High ended Boone’s season with a 9-3 win Monday night.
“I am proud of this team and all they accomplished,” Hoover said. “We were able to go undefeated at home, which we have never done. We were very competitive in every game we played.”
Brody Goodman got the save. Adams homered and had two hits and scored twice in the season-ending loss to Tennessee High. Elliott also had two hits.
Elliott hit .494 for the season. He had nine doubles, four triples, a home run and 33 RBIs. He was 4-1 with 1.04 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 40 innings.
Colby Backus hit .394 with 11 doubles, a home run, 31 RBIs and 19 stolen bases. Backus also made a number of difficult catches in right field.
Goodman, the center fielder, hit .374 with eight doubles, three triples, 21 RBIs and 20 stolen bases. Adams was 4-3 with 58 strikeouts and a 3.38 ERA.
David Crockett Softball
David Crockett senior Kara Weems pitched a four-hit shutout as the Pioneers defeated Volunteer in the opening round of the District 1-AAA softball tournament Monday in Church Hill. Weems, who will play at Milligan College, retired the first six batters and 12 of the first 13.
Mackenzie Baldwin (4-for-4, two RBIs, double, one run) and Maddie Roy (3-for-4, two runs, RBI, double) propelled the Pioneers’ bats.
Crockett (24-13) advanced to play Science Hill in the winners’ bracket semifinals Tuesday evening.
Daniel Boone Softball
Top-seeded Daniel Boone (41-6) was scheduled to open against fourth-seeded Dobyns-Bennett on Tuesday in the winners’ bracket semifinals (after press time for the Herald and Tribune).
The winners’ bracket final is scheduled for Wednesday. The losers’ bracket final is scheduled for Thursday. The championship game is set for Friday, as is an if-necessary game.