Rams butt Bulldogs into losers' bracket

Friday, May 22, 2015
Cornersville's Ben Taylor slides safely into home plate while scoring on a wild pitch in the bottom of the seventh inning against Grace Christian Academy. Tribune photos by Louis G. Scheuchenzuber


-After defeating Cornersville twice in the 2013 Class A State Tournament, Knoxville's Grace Christian Academy continues to be a thorn in the side of the Bulldogs at the Spring Fling, as the Rams (30-11) thumped CHS 11-2 in the second round on Wednesday afternoon at Middle Tennessee Christian School.

Due to Wednesday's setback, Cornersville (20-11) fell into the loser's bracket and must win three games in order to advance to the Class A title contest.

"We've just got to have a short memory. We have to forget that one and get ready to play another good baseball team," said CHS coach Ben Putman.

Hitting spree

Having averaged slightly over 10 runs per game during the playoffs, the Rams battered another opposing pitching staff and pounded out 16 hits against three Bulldog hurlers.

Chandler Adkins spearheaded GCA's offensive attack by going 3-for-4 with a walk, a double, a stolen base, 4 RBI, and run scored. Justin Shaw and Hayden Coffman both tallied three hits and a RBI as well, while Noah Gent (2 RBI) and Ross Ledford (1 RBI) added two hits apiece.

Ram starting pitcher Nathan Atkinson went the distance on the mound to pick up the win and limited Cornersville to only six hits overall to go along with three walks and eight strikeouts.

Bulldog hitters

Cornersville second baseman Graham Duke throws out Grace Christian Academy's Luke Shepherd at first in the top of the sixth inning.

Aaron Fox (1 RBI), Tyler Lowery, David Looney, Chance Dyer, Ben Taylor, and Colby Downs notched one hit apiece for the Bulldogs. Cornersville starting pitcher Graham Duke suffered the loss and yielded seven runs over four and two-third innings on 10 hits and two walks while recording four strikeouts.

GCA stranded two men in scoring position in the top of the first inning before the Bulldogs scratched out a run in the bottom half of the frame to grab a 1-0 lead. After leading off the inning with a single, Lowery advanced to third on a Looney bunt single and a Ram throwing error prior to racing home on a sacrifice fly by Fox.

Cornersville' lead would prove to be short lived, as GCA pushed across four runs in the top of the second to seize a 4-1 advantage.

GCA explodes

Following a leadoff single by Coffman, courtesy runner Bryce Hodge advanced to second on a wild pitch prior to moving to third on a Gent single. After Hodge scored on a wild pitch, Gent beat the throw home on a RBI fielder's choice by Hunter Ross to stake the Rams to a 2-1 lead. Ross then moved to third on a Shaw bunt single before Adkins stroked a two-run double into the right field corner.

Things quickly got worse for the Bulldogs, as GCA plated two more runs in the top of the third on the strength of a Ledford RBI double and a sacrifice fly by Gent to stretch their lead to 6-1.

"They had a couple of big innings that we could've shortened. We didn't make the plays and they took advantage of it," said Putman.

Extending lead

After Cornersville stranded two men on base in the top of the third, the Rams opened up a 7-1 advantage in the top of the fifth thanks to a Gent RBI single.

GCA then extended their lead to 8-1 in the top of the sixth with the help of a Coffman RBI single before tacking on three more runs in the seventh inning behind a RBI groundout by Luke Shepard and a pair of bases loaded walks by Adkins and Micah Wheeler to forge an 11-1 advantage.

In the bottom of the seventh, Ben Taylor scored on a wild pitch for the 11-2 final after belting a leadoff single and advancing to third on a Downs bloop single and a fielder's choice by Lowery.

The Buccaneers then took the wind out of the Cornersville's sails in the bottom of the first by crossing home plate five times in the frame on the strength of two hit batsmen, an error, a Morgan RBI double, a two-run triple by Matthews, and an Antwine RBI groundout to take a 5-0 lead.

In the bottom of the second, Boyd Buchanan opened up a 6-0 advantage when Evans raced home on a RBI double by Morgan after singling with one out.

Lowery held the Buccaneers scoreless in the third inning, but Boyd Buchanan brought the mercy rule into effect in the bottom of the fourth by plating five more runs with the help of a Jackson solo homer, a sacrifice fly by Morgan, an Antwine two-run double, and a RBI single by Seth Rogers to cap their 11-0 victory.