Heart and lots of It! Cyclones display grit in dramatic victory

Published 3:06 pm Thursday, April 4, 2024

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By Ron Marvel
Star Correspondent
Heart and determination were on full display during the Cyclones’ game on Tuesday night as they battled back not once, but twice, in near theatrical fashion to secure a significant conference win.
To say things started off badly for the Cyclones would be an understatement, as they gave up seven runs in the first inning. Five walks, two hits, two errors, and a hit by pitch allowed the Patriots to jump out to an early lead. The combination of errors, lack of control, and a minuscule strike zone put the boys from Betsy in a deep hole that seemed darn near impossible to dig out of.
Jackson Buckles came on in relief and, at the very least, allowed the Cyclones to take a breath and cut the bleeding down to a trickle. The Patriots added two more runs in the third inning, but the Cyclones were able to finally get a run back as Jeriah Griffin scampered home off a Sullivan East error to make it 9-1 after three innings.
After a quiet fourth inning, the Cyclones finally awoke, scoring nine runs. Steven Meadows roped a line drive to left to plate Jeriah Griffin and Bryson Rowland, making the score 9-3. Rhett Slagle then doubled, and JD Hooks walked before a Justin Whitehead single plated two more runs. Logan Campbell reached on an error, and Brayden Buckles hit another line drive to left to score two more runs. The Cyclones were not done yet, as Logan Campbell hit a missile down the third-base line that could not be handled, and then back-to-back singles by Buckles and Griffin gave the Cyclones a 10-9 lead. Overall, the Cyclones had 13 batters come to the plate in the inning.
However, the lead for the Cyclones would be short-lived as the Patriots scored three runs in the top of the sixth inning, with Patriot Blake Hayes hitting a triple with bases loaded to make the new score 12-10 in favor of Sullivan East. Back came the Cyclones in their half of the inning as Slagle reached on a hit by pitch and then scored later in the inning off a fielder’s choice. Logan Campbell put the ball in play again, this time for a single to left-center, plating Whitehead and tying the game at 12 all.
The final inning saw the Cyclones surrender three walks, but that was bracketed with three strikeouts, the final one coming with a 3-2 count. Cyclones’ Justin Whitehead froze the East batter with a low inside pitch for a called strikeout, bringing the Elizabethton faithful to their feet. The Cyclones, looking to end this wild ride, got things started with the bat of Jeriah Griffin, who sent a base hit up the middle. Rowland sent a sacrifice bunt down the first base line to send Griffin to second base, after a free pass to Slagle. Justin Whitehead hit a hard grounder up the middle, and Patriots second baseman Avery McCoy laid out for the ball, but it caromed off his glove, giving Griffin time to scoot home and put an exclamation mark on the Cyclones rally.
Griffin led the offense with three hits, while Slagle, Whitehead, and Buckles had two hits each. Whitehead picked up the win on the mound for Betsy, going 1 2/3 innings, giving up just one run and striking out four.
Coach Ryan Presnell understood the significance of this win for his young team, stating, “I believe in you guys in my heart, fight for Cyclone Pride today.” They did just that. We are young, but we are capable of a lot when we play with that pride. They showed what they can do when they commit to playing the right way. I’m proud of them. Games like this can serve as a catalyst to move teams to a higher trek; time will tell. But if you are a Cyclone fan, you have to love the heart you saw out of this young group tonight.”

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