Thunder surge past Johnson City

Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Marshall County second baseman Bryce Oliver tags out Johnson City's Brett Marcus in the bottom of the third inning after Marcus got caught in a rundown between second and third base. Photos by Louis G. Scheuchenzuber

On Saturday, the Marshall County Thunder assured themselves of a top three finish in the 14-year old Eastern Tennessee Babe Ruth State tournament by defeating Johnson City 8-2 in the second round of the tourney at Sam Davis Park in Pulaski.

Aided by a strong outing from starting pitcher Preston Walters, Johnson City had Marshall County on the ropes late in the contest and held a 1-0 lead through the first five innings of play.

Johnson City's bullpen, however, was unable to finish the job, as the Thunder scored eight runs over the next two frames against three relievers to seize an 8-1 lead before claiming the six-run victory.

Marshall County shortstop Wilson Limbaugh throws out Johnson City's Drew Pierce at first base in the bottom of the first inning.

Bolstered by their late offensive explosion, Marshall County finished with seven hits and six walks overall. Thunder starting hurler Ethan Poteete helped his own cause by going 2-for-4 with a double, 3 RBI, and two runs scored, while Derrick McKnight added a pair of singles, a walk, 1 RBI, and a run scored. Wilson Limbaugh (1 RBI), Landon Jones (1 RBI), and Boone Sweeney each tallied a hit for Marshall County as well.

"They took out their starting pitcher because he was getting tired. The next kid threw harder, but was not as accurate. It you throw a pitch over the middle of the plate, we're going to hit it," said Marshall County coach Mike Mills. "Ethan Poteete and Landon Jones both got big hits for us in the sixth inning and got us in motion."

Poteete also turned in a solid pitching performance and went the distance on the mound to pick up the win, yielding two unearned runs over seven innings on four hits and three walks to go along with four strikeouts.

Luke Willoughby went 2-for-3 with 1 RBI to pace Johnson City at the plate, while Walters (1 RBI) and Ian Scruggs each had one hit.

Johnson City relief pitcher Drew Pierce suffered the loss and yielded four runs in one plus inning of work on two hits and three walks. Walters had to settle for the no decision despite allowing only two hits and a walk over five scoreless innings.

Johnson City left a man in scoring position in the bottom of the first inning, but plated a run in the second thanks to a Thunder error, a walk, and a two-out RBI single by Willoughby to grab a 1-0 lead.

Marshall County failed to move a runner into scoring position over the next three frames, but finally got their bats going in the top of the sixth and pushed across two runs on two hits and a walk to seize a 2-1 advantage. After drawing a leadoff walk, Limbaugh advanced to second on a Bryce Oliver sacrifice bunt before Poteete belted a RBI double to deep left field. Jones then drove in Poteete by blasting a RBI double off the base of the left centerfield fence to put the Thunder on top.

In the top of the seventh, Marshall County delivered the knockout blow to Johnson City and crossed home plate six times in the frame on the strength of a Limbaugh RBI double, a two-run single by Poteete, a Jones bases loaded walk, a RBI fielder's choice by Jesse Pruitt, and a McKnight RBI single to forge an 8-1 lead.

Johnson City then tallied a run in the bottom of the seventh on a two-out RBI single by Walters for the 8-2 final.