Bulldogs fall in thriller at Loretto
Heading into the Region 6A semifinals Monday night at Loretto, there wasn't a baseball fan in the state of Tennessee outside of Cornersville that thought the Bulldogs would be able to play with the Mustangs, much less take the win.
The number one ranked Mustangs headed into the game riding a 22-game winning streak with losses to 4A Wilson (AL), defending AA state champion Spring Hill, and perennial 1A power Summertown, while featuring a lineup that included three Division I college commitments.
But the Bulldogs roared back from an early 7-1 deficit to take a 9-7 lead into the bottom of the seventh before a series of unlucky breaks allowed the Mustangs to take a 10-9 win on a walk off RBI single in the bottom of the seventh and sneak into the region championship contest for a rematch with Summertown.
"Down 7-1 to the number one team in the state a whole lot of guys would have said--good season and let's get on the bus--but they battled back and fought," CHS coach Ben Putnam stated. "I couldn't be more proud of them."
The Bulldogs sent Graham Duke to the mound and Duke controlled the Mustang bats for the initial three innings before the Mustangs racked up four runs to start the fourth, forcing Putnam to send in sophomore Carson Stacey to finish out the contest.
Stacey finished out the game with two strikeouts on twelve first pitch strikes, but ultimately took the loss on three late runs in the sixth and seventh innings. Duke finished the game with four strikeouts.
The entire Bulldog lineup produced at the plate led by Cam Whitaker with four RBI, Michael Allen with two RBI on two hits, and Caleb Crowell with three hits on four quality at-bats.
Duke and Tyler Wolaver also added an RBI.
The Mustangs were able to take the early lead on a first inning run, but the Bulldogs quickly tied the game up with a Wolaver RBI.
The Bulldogs threatened again in the third after Duke started off the inning with a walk and Crowell launched a single into center.
Mustang pitcher Jacob Laws, a North Alabama commitment, forced Taylor into a foul out and Allen into a strikeout to end the inning with two runners stranded on base.
Loretto was finally able to get a little breathing room with a big fourth inning starting with the initial run scored on a passed ball for the 2-1 lead.
With two outs Kendall Franklin bought in two runs with a double and after the Bulldogs brought in Stacey, Lane Dryden hit a triple down the third base line that brought home two runs for a 7-1 lead.
The Bulldogs refused to give up, starting off the fifth inning with a Kolbe McMahon bunt single before the speedy junior stole second base and advanced to third on a Crowell base hit.
Taylor was hit by a pitch to load up the bases and fellow senior Allen delivered a base knock to trim the lead to 7-2.
Whitaker kept the Bulldog comeback alive by drawing a bases loaded walk to bring the deficit to 7-3, but Cornersville missed a prime opportunity to add more runs as Eli Woodard grounded out to the pitcher to leave three runners stranded on base heading into the bottom of the fifth.
Cornersville continued the rally into the sixth with Wolaver reaching on a bad throw to first and advancing to second on a McMahon sacrifice bunt.
Bryce Hagan headed to first after being hit by a pitch before Duke brought home Wolaver on a RBI single to left field.
Crowell followed with the catcher's third base hit of the game before Taylor sent a base hit into left to trim the lead to 7-5, followed by an Allen single into center to cut the lead to one run.
Whitaker delivered the biggest Bulldog hit of the night as the sophomore drilled a double deep to the center field wall to clear the bases to give Cornersville a 9-7 lead with just one out.
The maroon and white were not able to add to the lead as Woodard popped out foul to the first baseman and Wolaver popped out to third base to end the inning.
Stacey started off the bottom of the inning looking sharp as the sophomore ace forced a ground out and a pop up to give the Mustangs two outs before an untimely error undid the Bulldogs.
Jacob Hallmark hit a line drive to straight to the center fielder's glove but the ball popped out and the third out of the inning turned into a double.
The Bulldogs looked to be out of trouble as Stacey quickly threw two strikes to Kendall Franklin, but inexplicably, two straight perfect pitches were called balls before Franklin send the final pitch deep over the left field wall to complete the comeback and tie the game at 9-9.
The Bulldogs came up empty in the top of the seventh and after a Lane Dryden walk to start off the home half of the inning and a sacrifice bunt to move Dryden to second.
Jake Johnson delivered the game winning single into center field to give the Mustangs the 10-9 comeback win.
"We got better all year long," Putnam said. "(We) started out not playing real good baseball. By the end, giving some really good teams fits and putting out a bunch of really good teams and making a run at this thing. I hate it for our seniors, but I hope our young guys can use this as a launching pad for the next few years."
Cornersville 010 026 0-9 11 4
Loretto 100 602 1-10 11 3
Cornersville: Caleb Crowell 3-for-5, Graham Duke 2-for-4, Michael Allen 2-for-3, Cameron Whitaker 2-for-3, Ben Taylor 1-for-3, Kolbe McMahon 1-for-3
RBI: Whitaker 4, Allen 2, Taylor, Duke, Wolaver
BB: Duke, Allen, Whitaker
RS: Dakota Polk 2, Allen 2, Bryce Hagan, Duke, Crowell, Wolaver, McMahon
SAC: Kolbe McMahon
ROE: Crowell, Wolaver
HBP: Hagan, Taylor
E: Whitaker 2, Taylor, McMahon
DP: Bryce Hagan 2, Eli Woodard, Tyler Wolaver 2
LP: Carson Stacey