Thunder squeak by Lawrence County
Coming off a heart breaking 16-14 loss to Giles County the previous evening, the Marshall County Thunder earned a rematch with the tourney hosts by defeating Lawrence County 4-3 in the loser's bracket final on Monday night at Sam Davis Park to advance to the finals of the 14-year old Eastern Tennessee Babe Ruth State tournament.
The Thunder held a 3-0 lead through the first four innings of play, but Lawrence County pushed across three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to knot the game at 3-3.
Marshall County then plated a run in the top of the seventh with the help of an error to pull back ahead before Thunder relief pitcher Bryce Oliver held Lawrence County scoreless in the bottom half of the frame.
Oliver picked up the victory on the mound for Marshall County and allowed just one walk in two scoreless innings of work while recording three strikeouts.
Having thrown a complete game only two days earlier, Thunder starting hurler Ethan Poteete turned in a gritty effort before eventually tiring in the bottom of the fifth, as he yielded three runs over four and one-third innings on four hits and three walks to go along with three strikeouts. Landon Jones also saw time on the hill for Marshall County and issued one walk in two-thirds of an inning.
"It was an incredible effort by the kids. They're playing now like I thought they could play," said Thunder coach Mike Mills. "Ethan Poteete gave us four and a third innings of outstanding pitching and Landon Jones got us out of trouble in the fifth. Bryce Oliver then came in and slammed the door."
Marshall County finished with a modest five hits against Lawrence County starting pitcher Austin Odom and reliever Jordan Burdette, but drew six walks in the contest to go along with four LC errors.
Oliver, Poteete, Jesse Pruitt (2 RBI), Derrick McKnight, and Payton Hood each tallied one hit for the Thunder.
Burdette was the tough luck loser on the mound despite allowing just one unearned run over six and a third innings on four hits and one walk.
Bryce Clift (1 RBI), Kirk Kemp, Burdette, and Brody Howard (1 RBI) each had one hit for Lawrence County.
Marshall County took advantage of Odom's command problems at the start of the game and crossed home plate three times in the top of the first inning on the strength of five walks and a two-run single by Pruitt to grab a 3-0 lead.
Lawrence County had a chance to cut into the deficit in the bottom of the third after putting runners on first and second with one out thanks to a walk by Howard and a Kemp bloop single, but Poteete snuffed out the threat by inducing Brock Vaughn to hit into a 4-6-3 double play.
In the bottom of the fifth, Poteete finally began to show signs of fatigue, as Lawrence County plated three runs in the frame behind a leadoff walk by Jackson Ferguson, a Clift RBI double, a RBI single by Howard, and a Odom RBI groundout to tie the score at 3-3.
Burdette worked around a pair of singles in the top of the sixth with the aid of a 6-3 double play, but Marshall County scratched out a run in the seventh to seize a 4-3 lead. Following a one-out single by Oliver, courtesy runner J.D. Crabtree advanced to third on a Poteete single while Poteete was thrown out at second on the play trying to stretch the hit into a double. Crabtree then raced home when Lawrence County third baseman Brock Vaughn misplayed a groundball by Boone Sweeney.
Lawrence County put a runner at second with two outs in the bottom of the seventh thanks to a walk by Vaughn and a wild pitch, but Oliver struck out Malachi Colvett to end the game.