Bulldogs edge Culleoka in district tourney
Starting pitcher David Looney and catcher Cody Blackburn made sure that Cornersville remained in the winner's bracket of the District 11-A tournament, as they both turned in outstanding individual performances to help lead the Bulldogs to a 4-2 second round victory over the Culleoka Warriors at Richland High School on Thursday night.
Having split the regular season series with Warriors, Cornersville (15-13) built a 4-1 lead through the first three innings of play before staving off a late rally attempt by Culleoka.
"Winning this game is a huge deal. Staying in the winner's bracket gives you the best chance to advance. If we win one more game, we're in the Region tournament," said Bulldog coach Ben Putman.
Looney went the distance on the mound to earn his fifth win of the season and mowed down the Warrior lineup with relative ease, as the sophomore southpaw racked up 18 strikeouts in seven innings of work while limiting Culleoka to just three hits and three walks.
With his performance on Thursday, Looney tied the school's single game strikeout record that had been held solely by former staff ace Lucas Laster, who achieved the feat twice during his Cornersville career.
"If David doesn't get all those strikeouts, we probably don't win. We weren't playing good defense and kept leaving people on base. He and Cody put us on their backs tonight," said Putman.
Although they drew five walks against two Warrior pitchers, the Bulldogs mustered only six hits and left nine men on base overall.
Blackburn continues to swing a red hot bat and went 3-for 3 with a walk, a homerun, 3 RBI, and two runs scored en route to recording his fourth straight multi-hit game. Tyler Lowery, Neil Davis, and Zach Richards each had one hit for Cornersville as well.
Culleoka starting pitcher William Fly suffered the loss after yielding four runs over four and a third innings on four hits and three walks. Catcher Ty Daly was the lone Warrior player to do any damage against Looney, as he went 3-for-3 with two doubles, a homerun, 1 RBI, and two runs scored.
Culleoka had a chance to take a lead early in the game when they put runners on second and third with one out in the top of the first inning on the strength of a Chuck Adams walk and a double by Daly, but Looney retired the next two Warrior batters on a fly out and a strikeout to escape the jam.
Blackburn then staked the Bulldogs to a 2-0 advantage in the bottom of the first by cranking a two-run shot over the left field fence after Tyler Lowery drew a leadoff walk.
The Warriors trimmed the deficit to 2-1 in the top of the third on a solo homer by Daly, but Cornersville quickly counterpunched and pushed across two runs in the bottom half of the frame to stretch their lead to 4-1. Tate Lowery drew a leadoff walk and stole second before racing home on a Blackburn RBI single to make it 3-1. After advancing to third on a groundout by Davis and a passed ball, Blackburn scored on a Jacob Griffis sacrifice fly.
The Bulldogs then left the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth, before Culleoka trimmed the deficit to 4-2 by plating an unearned run in the top of the sixth inning with the help of a Daly double, a hit batsman, and two Bulldog errors.
After Cornersville left the bases loaded again in the bottom of the sixth, the Warriors brought the potential winning run to the plate in the top of the seventh when they put men on first and second with two outs thanks to a walk and a hit batsman.
With Daly looming in the on deck circle, Looney buckled down and fanned Adams to preserve the victory for the Bulldogs.