Putting the collar on the ‘Dogs…Cyclones fight back for a 5-4 win in Region 1-AA baseball semifinal

Published 10:31 am Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Elizabethton Cyclones had everything going their way in the early going, but anyone who knows baseball knows that if a door is left open, then a game can change on a dime.

With the Cyclones leading 3-0 heading into the top of the fifth inning, the Claiborne County Bulldogs nipped at the ankles of the Cyclones taking a 4-3 lead before Elizabethton managed to chain the ‘Dogs to take a tougher-than-expected 5-4 win.

Elizabethton jumped out front in the bottom of the second inning as Lawson Wagner led off with a single and Jacob Mullins walked.

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A double steal moved both runners up a bag as Copper Tipton drew a base on balls as well to load the bags full of Cyclones.

Center fielder Nico Ashley lofted a sacrifice fly that plated Wagner to make it a 1-0 game. Karson Dillard followed by lacing a single to right field that brought Mullins home from second and when an errant throw from the Claiborne shortstop went wild, Tipton was on his horse to score as well making it 3-0 at the end of the inning.

Starting Elizabethton pitcher Evan Carter was doing his thing from the hill and was cruising through the game thanks to strong defensive play until the Bulldogs took advantage of some uncharacteristic Cyclone baseball in the top of the fifth inning to plate four runs with two runs.

The Cyclones answered back quickly in the bottom of the inning to pull even at 4-all.

Dillard started off the inning with a single and was erased on a fielder’s choice by Jaden Anderson. Carter followed with a walk to place runners at first and second base.

Bryson Rollins stepped to the dish and sent a laser into left field allowing Anderson to race home from second base to tie the ball game.

After the Bulldogs went three up and three down to complete their half of the sixth inning, the Cyclones went back to work in the bottom of the frame to regain the advantage.

Mullins led off with a walk and Claiborne Co. quickly retired the next two Elizabethton batters. It looked like Mullins was going to be picked off at first but when the second baseman took the throw from the first baseman, he laid his glove on the ground and Mullins alertly stepped over the attempted tag onto the bag safely.

“I saw that he was tagging low so I just pretty much stepped over his glove and stepped on the bag,” Mullins said of the play. “He knew he missed me. He even said that he missed me.

After the Claiborne head coach and pitcher took time to decide how they wanted to proceed, Dillard was given an intentional walk.

On the second pitch to Anderson, Mullins broke for third base and took the bag while Dillard went on a delayed steal to second.

The Bulldog catcher tried to nab Dillard at second but threw a rope into center field allowing Mullins to get up off the ground and scamper home for the go-ahead score.

“I saw that no one was holding me on at second base and I had a two-out lead and I had a pretty aggressive two-out lead so I had a good jump and took third,” Mullins said. “I didn’t see the play at second so they just told me to go.”

Needing three outs to end the game, side-winding pitcher Wagner was called on in relief and the reliever made short work of the visitors from New Tazewell by getting a quick groundout and then set the next two batters down on strikeouts to record the save.

“It’s been a hard year and its been adversity since day one and these kids responded to that and they are aggressive,” said Cyclone head coach Ryan Presnell. “Just to be honest with you, what Jacob Mullins did there at the end, there’s not a bone in that kid’s body that’s out there playing that game not to lose it—he’s out there playing to win it.

“There were several mistakes made by us and it wasn’t a clean game, but at the end of the day when we are aggressive and put ourselves in positions to succeed, somebody’s got to blink and they blinked one more time than we did.”

The Cyclones recorded only four hits in the game with Dillard showing the way with a 2-for-3 outing while Rollins and Wagner accounted for the other two.

Carter went six strong innings for the Cyclones allowing four runs on six hits while striking out four Bulldog batters and walking none to pick up the victory.

“You just have to push through,” said Carter about his team working back from trailing by one run late. “Somebody has to step up and make something happen. “We got through it and it all worked out.

“We got the win and that’s all that matters. We are ready to move on and play Wednesday and have a sub-state berth on Friday so we are ready to go the rest of the week.”

With the win, the Cyclones will play host to either Greeneville or Sullivan South at 6 pm Wednesday for the Region 1-AA championship and home-field advantage in Friday’s sectional contest.

Region 1-AA Baseball Semifinal

Elizabethton, 5-4

Claiborne Co.  000 040 0 –  4  6  3

Elizabethton    030 011 x –   5  4  2

WP: Carter. SV: Wagner. LP: Wilson.