BY IVAN SANDERS, Elizabethton Star
Even though the evening temperature at the end of Monday night’s high school season-opening baseball game at Joe O’Brien Field was hovering around 41 degrees, the game itself was hotter than a bowl of sliced Jalapeno peppers doused with Texas Pete.
In a contest that featured strong pitching, little hitting, and on the edge of the seat defensive play, the Elizabethton Cyclones took advantage of a walk-off single from Matthew Dailey in the bottom of the ninth inning to take a 1-0 win over Three Rivers Conference foe Sullivan East.
With two Division I coaches in the stands to take in the game, fans were treated to an old-fashion pitching showdown as neither team could manage to take advantage of a couple of scoring opportunities each and were forced to go two extra innings to settle the game.
Evan Carter was throwing BB’s mixed with a wicked curve from time to time in scattering 11 strikeouts over five complete innings of work. Carter didn’t allow a hit and walked three.
The only trouble Carter ran into was when he issued the three walks back-to-back-to-back in the top of the fourth inning before whiffing Ethan Perry for the third out to end the threat.
Lawson Wagner picked up where Carter left off in the top of the sixth as the sidearm slinger recorded four strikeouts while allowing the two Patriot hits.
Carter also had the defensive play of the game, gunning down Seth Chaffin trying to score the go-ahead run at the plate from center field in the top of the eighth after a two-out single off the bat of Dylan White.
Elizabethton had plenty of baserunners throughout the game leaving a total of 13 baserunners on the base path before Dailey blasted the hit in the bottom of the ninth that drove home Karson Dillard who had singled ahead of the Cyclone third baseman.
Dillard and Bailey both banged out two hits apiece in leading the Cyclones at the dish.
Both teams were rock solid in the field as 53 outs were completed in the game without an error committed by either team.
“A lot of confidence in our pitching staff especially on the first night,” said Cyclone head coach Ryan Presnell. “The great thing was we were able to keep their pitch count respectable especially on the first night.
“We had a lot of confidence with our defense. We had some offensive struggles—we failed to execute a couple of things that I think later in the season we will be able to execute.
“Overall very happy with the effort and happy with these kids,” continued Presnell. “They were cool as cucumbers. Sometimes you worry about them. I used to mistakenly label it as lackadaisical in those situations but honestly with this ball club and these kids being raised by seniors the last couple of years, they are just confident.
“They understand the game, they know we are going to get opportunities, and we are going to execute and they have faith in each other.”
Both teams had little time to put this game behind them as they met again on Tuesday in Bluff City.
In the junior varsity game, Elizabethton stormed back from two runs down in the bottom of the seventh inning to turn an 8-6 deficit into a 9-8 win to set the stage for the varsity contest.