Bulldogs lose two to Champions
The Cornersville Bulldogs started off the 2018 season blazing hot with a 5-1 record and the only loss being a close 7-3 loss to Zion Christian as they outscored opponents by a 33-13 total during that stretch.
But following a 5-1 win over District 8-A rival Moore County runs have been at a premium.
Heading into Tuesday night’s matchup against Cascade, who moved down from 2A for the 2018 season, the Bulldogs made the trip to Wartrace on a three-game losing streak in which Cornersville (5-5, 2-2) had been outscored 15-5 including a 5-2 loss to Cascade (7-8, 4-0) the previous evening.
The offensive woes continued on Tuesday night as the Bulldogs left bases loaded in the first, third, and fourth innings on the way to the 5-2 loss.
"We competed, we battled, we got down early and didn't lay down," Cornersville coach Ben Putnam said. "We fought back but we left so many runners on today and yesterday. We've got to find a way to get those runners in. Someone has got to come up with a hit."
Bulldog starter Carson Stacey pitched a great game for Cornersville, but a few timely hits by Cascade ultimately cost the visitors the ballgame.
Cascade starting pitcher Colby Presley hit a two-run home run in the first inning for an early 2-0 lead and after the Bulldogs trimmed the lead down to 3-2 on a Graham Duke home run in the fourth inning, Champion slugger Matthew Pilkington sent a two-out double off the center field fence to score the final two runs of the game.
"Lucky hits are pretty key and that's what they had," Stacey, who finished with a game-high six strikeouts, said. "I was battling but couldn't get anything over the plate. I always struggle here for some reason. I always have."
"They put together some lucky hits at crucial times with runners on and got the runners across the plate and we didn't."
The Bulldogs were led at the plate by catcher Caleb Crowell who finished with a game-high three hits and Tilden Jackson, Bryce Hagan and Tyler Wolaver all finished with three quality at-bats.
The Champions finished with nine hits, just two more than the Bulldogs seven hits, but Cornersville committed three errors while Cascade was mistake free.
The Bulldogs looked ready to jump back into the game in the third inning when a Crowell double, a Wolaver walk and Raymond Cooksey taking first after being hit by a Presley pitch loaded the bases for the second consecutive inning, but Jackson grounded out to end the inning and the deficit stayed at 2-0.
Aided by a couple of Bulldog mishaps in the field, the Champions tacked on one more run to their lead to take a 3-0 edge into the top of the fourth.
Jake Singleton dropped a double into the left/center gap before Duke sent a bomb over the left field fence to trim the lead down to 3-2.
"The at-bat before (Presley) got me with a two-seam on the hands," Duke recalled. "So I was watching for his two-seam and he threw it and I just timed it up and got a hold of it pretty good."
The Bulldogs continued to put runners on base as Hagan drew a walk and Crowell dropped a single into right center before Wolaver drew another walk to load up the bases for the third time in four innings.
But just like the previous situations, Cooksey struck out to end the inning with three runners stranded and the Bulldogs trailing by one run.
"In those situations you at least want to get the bat on the ball," Crowell said. "You put the bat on the ball and you never know what could happen."
In the bottom of the sixth inning with the Champions clinging to a one-run lead with two outs, Stacey intentionally walked Presley to load the bases and Pilkington made the Bulldogs pay with deep shot that came mere inches from a grand slam to score what would be the final runs of the 5-2 Cascade win.
"That's baseball," Putnam explained. "It will come around. We hit line drives that they catch, next week it'll be tinkers that fall and score two runs. Its baseball and we've been on the short end of the stick the past two days with runners in scoring position."
The Bulldogs have a chance to jump back in the win column against a suddenly resurgent Wayne County squad at home on Thursday and in Waynesboro on Friday.
A year after going winless the Wildcats are off to an 8-2 start with a 2-0 district record.
Cornersville is 6-1 over Wayne County the previous four seasons with a 15-1 season opening win in 2017.
April 3 at Cascade
Cornersville 000 200 0-2 7 3
Cascade 201 002 X-5 9 0
Cornersville: Caleb Crowell 3-for-3, Graham Duke 1-for-3, Tyler Wolaver 1-for-2, Logan Courtemanche 1-for-3, Jake Singleton 1-for-4.
RS: Duke, Luke Terry.
BB: Wolaver 2, Tilden Jackson 2, Duke, Bryce Hagan, Crowell.
2B: Singleton, Crowell.
RBI: Duke 2.
SAC: Courtemanche, Hagan.
FC: Raymond Cooksey, Wolaver.
Team LOB: 13
E: Duke 2, Courtemanche.
DP: Duke, Wolaver, Hagan.
LP: Carson Stacey (5.2IP, 9H, 5R, 4ER, 6K, 2BB), Raymond Cooksey (.1IP, 0H, 0R, 0ER, 1K, 0BB).
Monday, April 2 at Cornersville
Cascade 003 020 0-5 7 3
Cornersville 100 010 0-2 7 3
Cornersville: Caleb Crowell 3-for-4, Tilden Jackson 2-for-3, Graham Duke 1-for-4, Tyler Wolaver 1-for-4.
RS: Blake Pickett, Kolbe McMahon.
BB: Wolaver, Raymond Cooksey, McMahon.
SAC: Carson Stacey, McMahon, Bryce Hagan.
ROE: Cooksey, Hagan.
Team LOB: 9
E: Wolaver 2, McMahon.
LP: Graham Duke (5IP, 7H, 5R, 3ER, 10K, 1BB), Raymond Cooksey (2IP, 0H, 0R, 0ER, 1K, 0BB).