Highlanders keep on rolling…Cloudland enters district tourney on a four-game win streak

Published 8:22 am Friday, May 3, 2019

Winning baseball games have never come easy at Cloudland High School.

Taking a four-game win streak into the playoffs shows how far the team has come under the tutelage of Coach Cory Rhodes.

In the last two years, the ‘Landers have won a total of five games combined, so the 2019 season is very special to Coach Rhodes and Cloudland.

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All but one of these wins came on the road, and the Highlanders eventually won three very tough road games in five days.

The streak started when Cloudland played Hancock at home on Senior Night. They beat them easily 15-5, and gave the crowd a glimpse of things to come.

Next, the Highlanders went on the long road trip to James Frank White Academy on the campus of LMU. The ‘Landers defeated the Knights 12-11 in a very entertaining game that saw good hitting and great defensive plays by the Highlanders.

With the score 12-8 in the bottom of the fifth and last inning, Cloudland pitcher Brayden Christman allowed two batters to get on base; one was hit by Christman and the other hit a single to the outfield.

J.F. White’s excellent hitter, Gross, then stepped to the plate and knocked an in-the-park home run, making the score 12-11.

As Cloudland clung to the narrow lead, a J.F. White batter, Hembree, hit another single. Christman got the next hitter, Brush, to ground out, but then J.F. Whites’ Yeary came to the plate.

Christman, took the potentially winning run to a full 3-2 count, before unleashing a hard fastball.

All Yeary could do was watch the pitch go by, and Cloudland took the win, 12-11. Collin Morgan and Hunter Blair led all hitters in the game with two hits each.

Next came the Cosby Eagles on Monday night.

This time Cloudland had to make the journey to Cosby High School outside Newport. The story of this game was the arm of Cloudland’s Dillon Johnson. Johnson gave up only one hit and one unearned run while striking out 15 batters for the game.

Combined with relief pitcher Brayden Christman, Cloudland had a total of 18 strikeouts leaving the defense to make only three outs for the game.

Meanwhile, Cloudland’s batting was consistent. Seven out of nine Cloudland batters had at least one hit, and Christman led all hitters with three hits and two RBI’s.   

Finally, the Highlanders took their act on the road one more time as they made the two-hour trip to the Hancock County, Indians.

There they had to dig deep and come from behind by scoring eight runs in the top of the seventh inning to take the victory 12-7.

Fatigue seemed to be a problem with the ‘Landers in this game as they gave up six runs in the bottom of the first inning.

The Indians held on to this lead for five more innings only giving up one run in the first inning and three runs in the second inning.

With the Indians clinging to a 7-4 lead, Cloudland came to bat in the top of the seventh inning and left no doubt who the best team was on this day.

Scoring eight runs in the seventh and keeping Hancock scoreless during the bottom of the inning would prove to be the difference.

Dillon Johnson led all batters with two hits and four RBI’s for Cloudland. Christman received the win on the mound for the Highlanders.

“We are making fewer mistakes on defense and it shows. Our pitching staff is doing a good job, and we are batting very well right now,” said Coach Rhodes. “We are learning how to overcome adversity and that is a trait of a good team.”

Cloudland played Unaka High School in the first round of the district tournament on Thursday.

The game was played at David Crockett High School.