Bulldogs beat Raiders, secure region spot
The Cornersville Bulldogs, with a trip to the TSSAA Region 4-A baseball Tournament on the line, hosted the Moore County Raiders Tuesday in the District 8-A Tournament loser’s bracket final.
The weather did its part with brilliant sunshine as the Bulldogs faced a must-win condition to continue their season.
In the same scenario last season, the Raiders beat the Bulldogs 3-0, but things would be different this afternoon in Cornersville.
The Bulldogs’ bats came alive, and with the strong arm of Graham Duke, they held off the Raiders in a 12-8 victory, sending the Bulldogs to the District 8-A title game in the nightcap versus Eagleville.
Duke, the hard throwing right-hander, perhaps showing a bit of nervousness, walked shortstop Ryder Morey to open the game.
Duke settled down, striking out the next batter on three pitches.
Cameron Whitaker got the ball rolling for the Bulldogs in the bottom of the first inning when he lashed a double to left/center field that rolled to the fence.
Whitaker moved to third as Morey made a great play at shortstop on a hard grounder up the middle stroked by Tyler Wolaver.
After a pop-up for the second out, Duke lined a double to the gap in left/center to score Whitaker, giving Cornersville a 1-0 lead.
Duke continued to dominate as he struck out the first two Raiders before giving up a single to his counterpart Cameron Pykiet, but the District 8-A Pitcher of the Year recorded another strike out to end the inning.
In the bottom of the second inning with one out, Eli Woodard drew a walk, and after another out, Blake Pickett drew another base on balls to put two runners on base.
Cameron Whitaker drilled a first pitch strike over the left field fence, driving in Woodard and Pickett for a three-run home run.
“It was a fastball and up,” Whitaker said.
With a 4-0 lead, Duke remained strong in the top of the third even though a bases-on balls and a hit batsman placed runners on first and second with two outs.
Whitaker bailed out his pitcher by nailing the Raiders’ base runner attempting to advance home on a hit by Brown.
In the bottom of the third, Duke pounded a homer over the left field fence to make it 5-0 Bulldogs.
The top of the fourth saw things go awry for the Bulldogs as catcher Caleb Crowell suffered an injury to his thumb and was moved to second base with Tilden Jackson going behind the plate.
Duke gave up a double to Carson Templeton, who scored on an error that placed Gage Burt aboard and a walk put two runners on.
This started an avalanche of passed balls and wild pitches along with errant throws from the outfield and the infield, accounting for three more runs and the once safe lead was now down to one run.
Duke finally escaped with a strikeout, but the Raiders had trimmed the lead to 5-4.
The Bulldogs answered in the bottom of the fourth inning as Woodard got aboard on a ball lost in the sun by the Raiders left-fielder, but Woodard was erased on a fielder’s choice that put Connor McVey on first.
Pickett drew a walk to put two men on and after a passed ball moved the runners up one base, Tyler Wolaver beat out an infield hit to load the bases.
“I was trying to get on base, so my brothers behind me could drive me in,” Wolaver said.
Crowell rapped a single and a Raider error scored McVey, Pickett, and Wolaver to double up Cornersville’s lead at 8-4.
Duke followed with a walk and a base hit by Cooksey brought home Crowell and pinch runner Dawson Brumit as the Bulldogs took a 10-4 lead to the fifth inning.
After the fireworks in the fourth inning, the two teams settled down and things went smoothly until the bottom of the sixth when the Bulldogs struck again.
Duke said after getting beat around in the Raiders’ fourth, “I finally found my breaking ball.” Crowell agreed saying,” Graham has a good breaking ball.”
Wolaver led off the sixth with a single, Crowell doubled, and Cooksey struck again with a two-run single to push the lead to 12-4.
The Raiders would not go quietly as Duke showed signs of fatigue with a walk and a double by Dobbs that plated a run.
Cooksey came on in relief of Duke and walked the first batter and Brown lashed a double to score two runs and Brown took third base on the throw home.
Brown came home on a fielder’s choice, but Cooksey shut down the Raiders with a swinging strike by pinch hitter Tyler Williams for the final out.
“I was a little rattled coming in and having to pitch from the stretch,” Cooksey said.
Moore County 000 400 4-8 5 0
Cornersville 131 502 X-12 14 1
Moore County: Hunter Brown 2-for-4, Bryson Dobbs 1-for-4, Carson Templeton 1-for-4, Cameron Pykiet 1-for-1.
BB: Ryder Morey 2, Dobbs, Jimmy Stewart, Tyler Williams.
RS: Morey, Dobbs, Stewart, Brown, Templeton, Burt, Williams, River Hasty.
2B: Templeton, Brown, Dobbs.
RBI: Brown 2, Dobbs 2, Gage Burt.
SB: Morrey 2, Hasty, Tyler Sanders, Austin Brinkley, Williams.
Team LOB: 5
Cornersville: Cameron Whitaker 2-for-4, Raymond Cooksey 2-for-4, Graham Duke 2-for-4, Tyler Wolaver 2-for-4, Caleb Crowell 2-for 4, Eli Woodard 2-for-4, Tilden Jackson 1-for-4, Blake Pickett 1-for-2.
BB: Pickett, Duke, McVey.
RS: Whitaker 2, Wolaver 2, Pickett 2, Christian Wilson, Henlee Mitchell, Woodard, Duke, McVey, Dawson Brumit.
2B: Cooksey, Crowell, Duke, Whitaker, Woodard.
HR: Duke, Whitaker.
RBI: Cooksey 3, Whitaker 3, Duke 2, Jackson, Wolaver, Crowell.
Team LOB: 4
E: Logan Courtemanche.
WP: Graham Duke (6IP, 4H, 6R, 2ER, 12K, 4BB).
Save: Raymond Cooksey (1IP, 1H, 2R, 2ER, 2K, 1BB).