Williams Starts Owls' 'Grand' Rally, McClain Finishes It

Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - by Larry Fleming

One swing.

One huge momentum shift.

Ooltewah shortstop Drew Williams’ first-inning grand slam sparked a comeback that led the Owls to a 9-3 win over Walker Valley on Wednesday night at A.C. Bud Ball Field in a key District 5-AAA baseball game.

The Mustangs (9-4, 5-1) jumped on Ooltewah starter Jackson McClain for three runs in the top of the first, but the Owls’ strong-willed left-hander clamped down and completely throttled Walker Valley with a sterling three-hit, 14-strikeout performance.

It was Williams, however, that lit the fuse on the Owls’ rally.

Walker Valley starter Drew Lyles walked the first four batters – he threw 19 pitches and 16 were outside the strike zone – and the last free pass to Kevin Dupree produced the Owls’ first run.

Reliever John Simmons threw a ball to Williams, who smashed the next pitch down the left-field foul line. When Lyles, who left the mound to play left field, approached the corner all he could do is watch the ball sail out of the park.

“That’s my first (grand slam),” said Williams, who went 3-for-4 with the grand slam, a run-scoring double and five RBIs. “It felt great. The guys in front of me did a great job being patient with the first pitcher. If they don’t get on, that (homer) is just one run.”

Owls coach Brian Hitchcox put his finger on the importance of Williams’ slam.

“The difference in the game was how we responded to Walker Valley’s first inning,” he said. “They let us back in it by walking a few guys, but that one swing allowed us to relax, take a deep breath and get back to our approach to the game.”

With one out in the Owls’ first, designated hitter Jared Ryan singled to right-center field and scored from second on Walker Valley shortstop Bradley Smith’s throwing error – the game’s only misplay.

Ooltewah’s first-inning offense was more than enough for the victory, but the Owls added three more runs in the sixth inning to avenge a 2-1 loss to the Mustangs on Tuesday.

“I was disappointed the way the first inning happened,” Walker Valley coach Joe Shamblin said. “We’re better than that. (That inning) dictated the whole game. Hats off to (McClain), but six runs in the first inning will settle you down tremendously.

“If we get them out, I think we’re in good shape.”

Williams, a senior infielder/pitcher, said he had a good idea Simmons wanted to get ahead in the count and he was ready for a fastball.

“And he gave me one,” Williams said. “I knew it was out, but didn’t know if it was fair or foul. I thought it was foul off the bat, but I was watching it the whole way.”

As Williams circled the bases, a welcoming party of teammates dashed to home to greet him after the big blast.

“This was huge,” Williams said. “We struggled at Walker Valley, so it was nice to come in here and get this win. We’re going to Murfreesboro to play some really good teams this weekend. It’s good to get a good, quality win going into the weekend.”

The Owls (9-4, 5-1) will play Riverdale, Centennial, Wilson Central and Oakland in the Warrior Classic starting on Thursday.

When the Mustangs, who have never lost to Ooltewah on their own field, scored three runs on a passed ball and RBI singles by J0sh Poole and Simmons it looked like a nice start toward a series sweep of this year’s two regular-season games.

McClain walked leadoff batter Logan Melton, hit Kamren Barnes and yielded singles to Caleb Longley, Poole and Simmons in the three-run first. He struck out Lyles and Chase Prince and induced Elijah Haney into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.

McClain, a Yale University baseball signee, needed 26 pitches to get out of the first inning. He used 70 to get through the next six.

He allowed only three base runners, none of which got past first base, after the first inning. McClain hit Smith in the second, but he was wiped out in a double play. He hit Prince in the fourth, but Haney’s fielder’s choice forced Prince at second. Haney remained at first when Smith struck out.

McClain retired the final 10 batters, including seven strikeouts. He struck out the side in the fifth and seventh innings.

“Jackson threw a no-hitter after the first inning,” said Hitchcox, who was “confined” to the dugout in the home half of the first and seconds later drew an ejection by the home plate umpire. Moments later Hitchcox’s ejection was reversed.

“They didn’t hit the ball hard in the first, but got to Jackson. They got an 0-2 hit, an 0-2 hit batsman and things weren’t going our way,” Hitchcox said. “We messed up once defensively and gave them an extra base and we had a passed ball. You’re going to make mistakes, but we responded to that pretty good. Jackson was pounding the zone, had good movement on his pitches and had three pitches working tonight.”

McClain said he wasn’t rattled by the Mustangs’ first-inning success.

“I knew our team would come back,” he said.

After his brief struggles in the first, McClain gained control of his three best pitches – a two-seam fastball, a changeup and a curveball.

“Everything was working and those pitches are deadly together,” he said.

Of his 96 pitches, McClain threw 66 strikes.

The 14 strikeouts were a career-high for the 6-foot-4-inch lefty.

His ability to rebound from a tough start – he faced 19 batters, one over the minimum, in the last six innings – enabled McClain to be instrumental in the Owls’ snapping a three-game losing streak.

How did he do it?

“I wasn’t shaken up and stayed mentally tough,” McClain said. “I think it was definitely a good momentum shifter. I think this will make us and coach (Hitchcox) happy.”

In the Owls’ sixth, Logan Fugate and Hayden Bradley each singled and after Brody Binder flied out to center, Dupree blasted a two-run double off the center-field fence. Dupree scored when Williams followed with a hard single to right-center.

LINESCORE

Walker Valley                 300 000 0 – 3 3 1

Ooltewah                           600 003 x – 9 9 0

Lyles, Simmons (1) and Poole; McClain and Binder.

(E-mail Larry Fleming at larryfleming44@gmail.com)


Mocs Volleyball Team Falls In SoCon Semifinals

The Chattanooga Mocs volleyball team saw its postseason come to an end despite a strong showing against Samford, falling 3-2 in the first round of the Southern Conference Championships in Greensboro, N.C. “Despite the score, I couldn’t be more proud of our team,” Head Coach Travis Filar said.  “They played hard all season and finished the season strong.  The leadership ... (click for more)

Lee Women Win 70-54 Over Brescia University

A pair of freshmen led the way as Lee defeated scrappy Brescia University 70-54 in a non-conference contest on Saturday afternoon in Walker Arena. The victory improves the Lady Flames' record to 3-0 on the year, while the visiting Bearcats slipped to 2-5. Erin Walsh, who played her high school ball at Knox Bearden, canned five 3-pointers and finished with 19 points to lead ... (click for more)

Lookout Mountain, Ga., Raises Sewer Rates; Joins In Kudzu Fight

The Lookout Mountain, Ga., City Council on Thursday night approved an increase in sewer charges. The council approved ordinance 281 increasing sewer rates to $6 per 100 cubic feet of water from the previous rate of $4.77.  The new increase will be in effect in January 2015.    City Manager Brad Haven said the town will be replacing the flow meter for ... (click for more)

Severe Weather To Threaten South As Thanksgiving Travel Begins

AccuWeather reports a storm riding a surge of springlike warmth will bring a round of severe weather including the risk of a few tornadoes this weekend in the South as Thanksgiving travel begins. According to Severe Weather Expert Henry Margusity, "The storm system will draw warm, moist air northward from the Gulf of Mexico and allow thunderstorms to develop, while at ... (click for more)

Don't Allow Us To Be Overrun By People Who Do Not Belong Here - And Response (6)

Thank you, Senator Corker, for your clear, concise evaluation of the president's attempt to bypass Congress and personally and independently establish national policy that violates our current immigration laws.   Our long-standing failure to enforce our laws to control illegal immigration across our southern border has made this country less safe and ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: ‘Pretty’ Seeking ‘Rich’

The story has been around for a while, long enough for the fact-checking Snopes.com to classify it as a “legend,” which means “great story but lacks validity,” so as we hope Tennessee’s football team can somehow beat 19 th -ranked Missouri in a rough-and-tumble game at Neyland Stadium tonight, allow me to share this because it is delightful just the same. The following is what ... (click for more)