Bulldogs rally for District title
The Cornersville Bulldogs baseball team experienced a watershed moment on Thursday night when they claimed the program's first ever District tournament championship by pulling out a wild 14-13 extra inning victory over Columbia Academy in the title game at Richland High School.
Needing two wins over Cornersville (17-13) to claim the championship after fighting their way through the loser's bracket, CA held a commanding 12-5 lead through the first five and a half innings of play and appeared they would force a deciding game.
The Bulldogs, however, kept their nose to the grindstone and crossed home plate eight times over the next two innings, highlighted by a game tying three-run homer from Neil Davis in the bottom of the seventh, to knot the score at 13-13.
After holding Columbia Academy scoreless in the top of the eighth, CHS pulled out the victory in the bottom half of the frame when Tate Lowery drew a bases loaded walk to give Cornersville the District 11-A crown.
"Winning the District tournament means a lot because we worked our butts off for this," said senior catcher Cody Blackburn. "Things didn't go our way at the start of the game, but we came together as a team and kept fighting."
Thanks to Thursday's win, the Bulldogs earned a first round home game in the Region 6-A tournament on Monday night against District 12-A runner-up Collinwood.
'What you play for'
"This is what you play for. If you win the District, you get to keep playing. I hope it's something we start expecting to compete for every year," said CHS coach Ben Putman.
Bolstered by their late offensive surge, the Bulldogs tallied 10 hits and 10 walks against four CA pitchers, but were also aided by seven Columbia Academy errors.
Having collected 12 hits in his last five games, Blackburn once again wielded a big stick for the Bulldogs and went 3-for-4 with a double, 2 RBI, and three runs scored. Tyler Lowery also added two hits and two runs scored, while Davis finished with a homer and a career high 5 RBI. Tate Lowery (1 RBI), Matt Callender (1 RBI), starting pitcher Jody Sullivan, and David Looney each notched one hit for CHS as well.
CA relief pitcher Scott Lentz suffered the loss after allowing three runs over one plus inning on three hits.
Lots of hits
Columbia Academy pounded out 14 hits against four Cornersville pitchers to go along with four walks and three Bulldog errors.
Blake Luna (3 RBI), Cole Chambley (2 RBI), Austin Braswell (1 RBI), Blake Hayes (1 RBI), Drew Thornton (1 RBI), and Lentz each had two hits for CA with Braswell belting a homerun.
Looney pitched a perfect eighth inning to pick up the victory on the mound for CHS.
Cornersville grabbed a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning when Tate Lowery raced home on a sacrifice bunt by Davis after drawing a walk and advancing to third on a Blackburn bloop single and a wild pitch.
Columbia Academy then got their bats going and pushed across two runs in the top of the second to seize a 2-1 advantage before tallying five runs in the third inning to make it 7-1.
In the bottom of the third, Cornersville plated three runs with the help of a Looney single, a double by Tyler Lowery, a wild pitch, and two Columbia Academy errors to narrow the gap to 7-4.
The Bulldogs then cut the deficit to 7-5 in the bottom of the fourth on a bases loaded walk by Davis, but Columbia Academy notched a run in the top of the fifth to stretch their lead to 8-5 before crossing home plate four times in the sixth inning to open up a 12-5 cushion.
Cornersville, however, took advantage of some shoddy defense by CA in the bottom of the sixth and notched four runs in the frame on the strength of a singles from Tate Lowery and Blackburn, a Davis walk, and three Columbia Academy errors to slice the deficit to 12-9.
CA tacked on a run in the top of the seventh to make it 13-9, but the Bulldogs responded with four runs in the bottom half of the frame to knot the game at 13-13.
Following a leadoff walk by Looney, Tyler Lowery singled to put runners on first and second with no outs. Blackburn then drove in Looney with a RBI double, before Davis tied the game by cranking a three-run homer over the centerfield fence.
"I was just trying to get a hit and drive in some runs. I wasn't trying to hit a homerun," said Davis. "I actually thought I hit a pop up, but I saw the umpire raise his finger and signal a homerun."
Looney retired Columbia Academy in order in the top of the eighth before Callender laced a double into the left centerfield gap to lead off the bottom half of the frame. After Callender advanced to third on a bunt single by Sullivan, Looney was intentionally walked to load the bases with no outs. Tate Lowery then drew a one-out walk to bring home the winning run and set off a jubilant celebration by the Bulldogs.