Tigers hold on for win over Tullahoma
The MCHS Tigers have suffered through several early season setbacks, including a close six-run loss to defending 2A champion and currently undefeated Spring Hill (12-0), a 2-1 setback to one-loss Decatur County-Riverside (5-1), who haven't given up more than two runs in a game this season, and an excruciating 2-1 loss to District 12AA rival Giles County.
Two days after a second loss to Giles County, the Tigers finally picked up their first win over the season via a 17-0 thumping against Hume-Fogg which gave Marshall County its groove back as evidenced in the 8-7 win over perennial 3A powerhouse Tullahoma.
The Wildcats have made the sectional round in the TSSAA's highest classification four out of the past seven years and have produced four first round Major League Baseball draft picks since 2001, including 2014 Gatorade National Player of the Year Justus Sheffield.
Despite the Wildcats' rich tradition looming tall on Friday night, the Tigers were able to erase a 3-0 lead after the second inning and hang tight after Tullahoma rallied from an 8-5 deficit and cut the lead to one run in the top of the seventh.
"We're very happy about this ballgame," Tiger coach Mike “Monk” Reese said. "To beat a good team like that, it's good for us. I'm real proud of the way our guys played, they just kept battling and making plays."
"I'm playing a lot of younger guys out there and those younger guys are growing and growing every play," Reese continued. "Right there at the end I think I had two freshman, three sophomores, two juniors, and a couple seniors, so a lot of young guys."
The Tigers found the right mixture of youth and experience on the mound as senior Brett McGehee started the game at pitcher before freshman Preston Shelton came in to provide great middle relief, followed by Nathan Derryberry coming in to finish off the Wildcats.
"Tullahoma is a great ball team, but you just have to come in and shut 'em down," Derryberry said. "As long as you catch them off guard and get ahead of them, they're not gonna come back and get you."
The Wildcats started off hot in the batter’s box as Race Marin drove in two runs with a two-out single up the middle for a 3-0 lead, before Brandon Burns was called out at first on a bunt to end the inning.
The Tigers finally got on the board in the bottom of the second when Brayden Gentry hit a single into left field to bring home Logan Bailey, trimming the lead to 3-1.
The Wildcats added another run in the top of the third on a Chase Dixon deep solo home run into left center, prompting Reese to replace McGehee with Shelton, who promptly sat down the next three Wildcats.
Marshall County finally took the lead with a big fourth inning, starting off with a Derryberry single down the left field, a Shelton single to center, followed by a Jay Lyons two-out single to left field to cut the lead to 4-3.
McGehee gave the Tigers the lead with a slow blooper that the shortstop bobbled, before misfiring to first base which allowed two Tigers to score for a 5-4 lead.
Shelton started off the fifth inning with 10 straight balls to walk two batters before Derryberry entered the contest and allowed a single to tie the game at 5-5, but Derryberry followed with three straight outs to end the Wildcat threat.
The Tigers countered with three straight singles to start the fifth before Mitchell Ford dropped a single into left field to regain the lead at 6-5.
Walker Whaley drilled a deep line out to center and a tagging Hunter Haurez was hit in the head by the throw to home and the ball ricocheted off the helmet towards the Tullahoma dugout to allow Shelton to score for the 8-5 lead.
Derryberry got out of a bases loaded jam in the top of the sixth by striking out the last two batters of the inning and after giving up two runs in the seventh, the Tiger ace forced Dixon, who had hit a homer in the third, to hit into a game ending ground out to Gentry at third with the tying run at second base.
"I was thinking curve ball," Derryberry recalled. "Curve ball all day. He was sitting on my fastball. He was ticking and ticking it, but I hung my curve ball a little bit and I just thank God Brayden was over there and had it pat down all day."
"I had no fear throwing my fast ball, it was just I knew the only way I was gonna sit him down out solid was on my curve," Derryberry said.
The Tigers played a doubleheader with Page on Wednesday before jumping out of district with matchups versus Lincoln County on Thursday and an away game at Tullahoma on Friday.