Bulldogs halt Huntingdon at state tournament
MURFREESBORO -- Cornersville staff ace David Looney once again sparkled underneath the bright lights Tuesday afternoon in the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association's Spring Fling.
The Cornersville left-hander recorded his fifth complete-game victory of the postseason to lead the Bulldogs in a 3-1 decision over the Huntingdon Mustangs in the opening game of the Class A State Tournament at Middle Tennessee Christian School.
The two teams battled to a scoreless tie through the first four innings, but Cornersville (20-10) finally solved Huntingdon starting pitcher Zach Dodson and crossed home plate three times over the next two frames while Looney held the Mustangs (21-16) to just one run the rest of the way.
After posting a 1-2 record in their only other state tournament appearance two years ago, the Bulldogs doubled their overall win total at the Spring Fling thanks to Tuesday's triumph.
"We got a win two years ago, but it was in the losers' bracket. The difference today was that we got a win to stay in the winners' bracket. We had to stay in the winners' bracket in order to do something special and have a chance to win this thing," said CHS coach Ben Putman.
Facing a red hot Huntingdon team that had won 15 of its last 17 games, Looney cooled down the Mustangs' bats, allowing only four hits over seven innings while issuing three walks and notching seven strikeouts en route to picking up the second state tournament win of his CHS career. With Tuesday's performance, Looney ran his season record to 11-0 and lowered his ERA to a minuscule 1.07.
"This was just like our Sub-State game against Forrest. I tried to let my team make plays behind me. I tried to get a lot of groundballs instead of striking everyone out," Looney said.
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, posted seven hits and two walks overall against Dodson, who went the distance on the mound and suffered the loss.
Leadoff hitter Tate Lowery and catcher Aaron Fox were Cornersville's two main offensive catalysts. Lowery went 3-for-4 with a RBI and a run scored while Fox added two hits and two RBI. Looney and Curt Taylor each had a hit for the Bulldogs as well.
Kade Pearson (1 RBI), Ben Clift, Kolton McMinn, and Dodson notched one hit apiece for Huntingdon.
Cornersville failed to capitalize on a couple of scoring opportunities early in the game, leaving the bases loaded in the top of the first inning before stranding a runner at second in the next frame.
In the bottom of the bottom of the second, the Mustangs had a chance to get on the board after putting runners on second and third with one out, thanks to a walk, an error, and two stolen bases. Looney, however, bore down and fanned the next two Huntingdon batters to escape the jam.
The Mustangs mounted another scoring threat in the third inning when they put runners on the corners with no outs on the strength of a Brandon Barmore walk, an errant pickoff throw by Looney, and an infield single by Dodson.
Huntington was unable to cash in once again, though, as Bulldog third baseman Ben Taylor caught a line drive by Elijah Wilkerson and doubled Barmore off third before Looney retired Kade Pearson on a groundout to end the inning.
On the board
Then, the Mustangs stranded men at first and second in the fourth inning before Cornersville finally broke the scoreless stalemate by plating two runs in the top of the fifth to seize a 2-0 lead. After Hunter Talley reached base on an error, Lowery singled and J.D. Crabtree was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out. Fox then plated Talley and Lowery by smacking a two-run single into left field.
Huntingdon narrowed the gap to 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth on a RBI single by Pearson, but the Bulldogs tacked on an insurance run in the top of the sixth to open up a 3-1 advantage. Following a leadoff single by Curt Taylor, pinch runner Justin Black advanced to second on a Ben Taylor sacrifice bunt prior to racing home on a RBI single by Lowery.
Looney made the lead stand, retiring the Mustangs in order in the bottom of the sixth before working around a two-out walk in the seventh inning to clinch the win for CHS.