Duke, Cooksey lead Bulldogs to shutout win
The Cornersville Bulldogs beat Fayetteville 4-0 Tuesday night at home for their seventh win in a row and it was a big one, keeping them alive in a fight for first place in the District 8A standings.
“We put ourselves in a hole early against Cascade by dropping a couple of games we could have played better in, but this is one we had to have and we got it,” Cornersville coach Ben Putnam said. “Even with some of the guys not having their best days as a team they were able to come together to get a win.”
Bulldog ace Graham Duke took the hill and although he didn’t have his best stuff, Duke turned in a solid effort as he tossed six shutout innings before Raymond Cooksey pitched a scoreless seventh to earn the save.
“Graham got the job done,” Putnam said. “I think if you ask him he didn’t nearly have his best stuff, but it was still good enough to get us those six shutout innings.”
Duke gave up four hits, while striking 11 and walking one Tiger batter and Cooksey struck out two out of the four hitters he faced in the last inning.
“I knew we needed to win this game and I knew the team was going to be OK hitting, so I just wanted to come in and throw strikes and spot pretty good,” Duke said. “We played good as team tonight and everybody did their part and made the plays and got the hits.”
The pair were also the main destructors at the plate with Cooksey going a perfect 3-for-3 with three RBIs, while Duke had two doubles and two bases on balls in four trips with an RBI.
“We are in a good position now to take it all and win the district,” Cooksey said. “That first time up with two outs I knew we needed that first run that was big and the second time we needed those two runs going into the last few innings in case they were going to score.”
Duke allowed two baserunners in the top of the first inning with the first one (Zorion Pullen) reaching on an infield error before being thrown out trying to steal second base by Bulldogs’ catcher Caleb Crowell and Lex Marsh walked, but was stranded.
Fayetteville’s freshman starting pitcher Josh Thomas walked the first two batters he faced, but came back with a pair of outs before Cooksey drilled a two-out RBI single to give Duke the only run he would need.
Duke whiffed three out of the four batters he faced in the second inning and Thomas settled down and threw four innings of shutout ball until he was replaced on the mound by Pullen in the bottom of the fifth inning.
The Tigers managed to get one baserunner on in the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth innings off Duke, who never allowed a Fayetteville runner past second base in the contest.
Cornersville put the game away in the bottom of the fifth inning as Kolbe McMahon led off with a bunt single and scored on a Duke double to right field.
Duke was thrown out at third base on the play trying to stretch the hit to a triple, but Bryce Hagan re-started the rally with a single up the middle.
After a fly ball to left for the second out, Tyler Wolaver walked before Cooksey bashed a double to the left/center field gap, scoring both Hagan and Wolaver to make it a 4-0 contest.
Cooksey came on in the bottom of the seventh for Duke and came up with back-to-back strikeouts before an infield error kept the Tigers alive.
It was not to be as Cooksey recorded the final out of the game on another whiff.
“Cooksey has been our closer, our fireman whatever you want to call it, he has been able to come in some close games late and get the job done,” Putnam said. “And he was big at the plate tonight.”
The Bulldogs had destiny in their hands when they left the field at Cornersville Tuesday night as a win at Fayetteville Wednesday night and a sweep over first-place Eagleville next week would give the Dawgs the District 8-A regular season crown.
Fayetteville 000 000 0-0 4 3
Cornersville 100 030 X-4 8 2
Fayetteville: Jeffrie Pettie 2-for-3, Garrett Gardner 1-for-3, Drake McElyea 1-for-3.
BB: Mac O’Connor, Lex Marsh.
ROE: Zorion Pullen, McElyea.
FC: O’Connor, Gardner.
Team LOB: 7
E: Pullen 2, Andy Locker.
LP: Josh Thomas (4IP, 3H, 1R, 1ER, 4K, 2BB), Zorion Pullen (2IP, 5H, 3R, 3ER, 1K, 2BB).
Cornersville: Raymond Cooksey 3-for-3, Graham Duke 2-for-2, Bryce Hagan 1-for-3, Tilden Jackson 1-for-3, Kolbe McMahon 1-for-3.
RS: Luke Terry, Hagan, Tyler Wolaver, McMahon.
BB: Duke 2, Hagan, Wolaver.
2B: Duke 2, Cooksey.
RBI: Cooksey 3, Duke.
ROE: Blake Pickett, McMahon, Caleb Crowell.
Team LOB: 8
E: Duke, Wolaver.
WP: Graham Duke (6IP, 4H, 0R, 0ER, 11K, 2BB).
Save: Raymond Cooksey (1IP, 0H, 0R, 0ER, 2K, 0BB).