Thunder blanks Lebanon
Despite batting stifling heat the entire afternoon, Marshall County starting pitcher Stuart Warner kept his cool under pressure on Saturday, as he tossed a complete game shutout to lead the Thunder to an 8-0 victory over the Lebanon Lions in the first round of the 14-year old Eastern Tennessee Babe Ruth State tournament at Sam Davis Park in Pulaski.
Effectively mixing his curveball with his fastball, Warner racked up nine strikeouts and yielded just one hit and four walks in seven innings of work en route to earning the win.
The Thunder also played solid defense behind Warner and did not commit an error in the game while turning one double play.
"I was really pleased with our performance especially for a first game of a tournament. Stuart leaves for Alaska tomorrow so he gave us everything he had today and pitched well. He hit his spots all day long and his curveball was great," said Marshall County coach Mike Mills.
The Thunder, meanwhile, finished with a modest five hits against Lebanon starting hurler Daniel Dillard and reliever Brian Ensles, but took advantage of four walks, three hit batsmen, and three Lion errors.
Catcher Boone Sweeney and shortstop Ethan Poteete did the most damage at the plate for Marshall County, as Sweeney went 2-for-4 with two doubles and a RBI, while Poteete tallied two singles, a walk, and a run scored. Payton Hood also added a hit and 2 RBI for the Thunder.
Dillard suffered the loss on the mound, yielding eight runs, only two earned, on four hits and two walks over four and two-thirds innings. Ensles singled to account for the Lions lone hit of the contest.
Marshall County grabbed a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning when Bryce Oliver scored on a Lebanon error after being hit by a pitch and advancing to second on a Poteete bloop single.
The Lions had a chance to tie the game in the top of the third and put a runner on second with two outs thanks to a single by Ensles and a Peyton Bell sacrifice bunt, but Warner retired Takesse Turner on a groundout to snuff out the threat.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Thunder stretched their lead to 3-0 by pushing across two runs in the frame on a hit, a walk, and a Lebanon error. Following a leadoff double by Sweeney, courtesy runner Ethan Evans advanced to third on a wild pitch before racing home on a sacrifice fly by Landon Jones. Derrick McKnight then drew a walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch before scoring when Lion centerfielder Mahmned Al-Geda was unable to make a running catch on a fly ball by Jesse Pruitt.
Lebanon had an opportunity to cut into the deficit in the top of the fifth after Zane Potter and Andy Empy drew walks to put runners on first and second with no outs. Warner, however, bore down and fanned the next three Lion batters to escape the inning unscathed.
Marshall County broke the game wide open in the bottom of the fifth and crossed home plate five times in the inning on the strength of a Lion error, a RBI double by Sweeney, a Warner sacrifice fly, a bases loaded walk by Pruitt, and a Hood two-run single to forge an 8-0 advantage.
Warner then worked around a walk in each of the next two innings to complete the shutout victory.