Digging deep…Cyclones fight off Rebel charge advancing to District 1-AA final, 1-0

Published 8:00 pm Wednesday, May 8, 2019

JOHNSON CITY— In a game that took a little over 75 minutes to complete, Sullivan South gave the Elizabethton Cyclones all they could handle and more.

However, when it came time to dig deep, the Cyclones pulled up their boots, grabbed their shovels and dug in and hung on to take a heart-pounding 1-0 win to advance to their third straight District 1-AA championship game and more importantly garnered their third straight regional berth in the process.

This win didn’t come easy as South had ample opportunities to push across runs but the Cyclone defense rose to the occasion to squirm out of risky situations in helping senior hurler Matthew Dailey pick up the victory from the hill.

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Both defenses were performing admirable backing up their starting pitcher as Elizabethton batters didn’t offer up a strikeout in the game hitting the ball all over the park with the Rebel defense making play after play.

The same was said of the Cyclone defense as there were times ‘Betsy bent but didn’t break.

One of those times came in the Rebel fifth when South’s Williams doubled to left field. South lifted Williams for Jones as a pinch runner.

The next batter, Jennins, attempted a bunt and on the play, Jones was sent home by the third base coach for South when he thought a ball thrown to third baseman Lawson Wagner by Dailey had gone wild.

In actuality, the ball hit the umpire who tried to avoid the errant throw but being part of the field allowed Wagner to pick the ball up and throw to catcher Karson Dillard who had snuck up the line and tagged out Jones.

Jennins tried to take second on the play but with the Cyclone dugout alerting Dillard, the catcher threw a laser to second base to retire Jennins on the tag for a double play.

Dailey allowed two more runners to reach after the double play thanks to a walk and a hit batter but enticed South’s power slugger Creech into a mile-high fly ball that was reeled in by Wagner for the third out in foul territory down the third base line.

The Cyclones finally broke the ice in the bottom of the sixth inning with one out when Dillard legged out a play to first base that resulted in a throwing error by South which allowed Dillard to take second when the ball went into the Rebel dugout.

Jaden Anderson followed with a ground ball to first base that was misplayed by the Rebel first baseman resulting in another errant throw allowing Dillard to round third and race home for the score.

Evan Carter was intentionally walked and was followed by a screaming single to left field by shortstop Bryson Rollins.

Anderson was waved home by third base coach Ryan Presnell. The baseball arrived at the plate the same time as Anderson and it was evident that a tag was made by an empty mitt by the South catcher but the home plate umpire called Anderson out.

Elizabethton took the 1-0 lead into the top of the seventh inning.

Dailey quickly retired the first two South batters on a pop fly and a strikeout. However, Jennins came back into play as he laced a two-out single to give the Rebels hope.

Dailey took matters into his own hands as he fanned South’s Seto looking to end the game and set off the Cyclones celebration.

Hits were at a minimal as the Rebels out-hit the Cyclones 4-3 while each team struggled in the field with Elizabethton charged with three errors to two for the visiting Rebels.

Anderson, Carter, and Rollins accounted for the Cyclone hits.

Dailey, meanwhile, went the distance from the hill allowing the four Rebel hits, striking out five, and walking only two South batters.

“I was struggling to throw strikes early in the game and later on I just threw it in there and let them hit it because I knew my defense would back me up,” said Dailey of his effort. “I knew if I just threw it in there and let them hit it that I had the defense to back me up the next play so I wasn’t worried.”

For Presnell, the Cyclone skipper, the game was one where he knew his team was a little frustrated but did what they needed to do to regain their focus and pull out the win.

“I don’t think they were necessarily frustrated. I think what they didn’t do was take a second and step back and get a little more cerebral about hitting the baseball,” Presnell stated.

“So, they didn’t realize the approach that was getting them out every time and because it was happening so quick because this was an hour and 15-minute game, they didn’t adjust quick enough.

“In the postseason you have to adjust quicker,” continued Presnell. “We adjusted in the sixth inning and put the ball in play hard on the ground and tried to run the bags and do what we do. We had to adjust our frustration and turn it into focus.”

The Cyclones played the winner of the Sullivan East and South game Wednesday night for the championship. A second if-necessary game will be played Thursday night should the Cyclones took a loss in Wednesday’s game.