BAXTER, Tenn. – East Hamilton left the bases loaded three times, stranded 13 total runners and Upperman’s Bees posted a 7-4 victory in a Class AA sectional showdown Friday in rainy, sloppy playing conditions.
Elsewhere, Ooltewah’s scheduled Class AAA sectional at Riverdale was postponed and rescheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m.
“It was some of the worst playing conditions in a meaningful game that I’ve ever been affiliated with in 20 years of coaching,” Hurricanes coach Steve Garland said in an interview. “There are two things in baseball you can’t control – weather and umpires. It happens. It was the same thing for Upperman.”
The game, pushed to an 11:30 (Eastern) start due to East Hamilton’s scheduled graduation on Friday night, was delayed twice and rain fell throughout.
“It was sloppy,” Garland said.
East Hamilton finishes the season at 25-14. Upperman advances to the Class AA state tournament at next week’s Spring Fling with a 25-10 record.
“This was our last baseball game in double-A,” said Garland, whose team will compete in District 5-AAA next season. “We felt we had a good chance to compete had we advanced, so this one stings. Our program is in good shape, other than not having a field to play on.
“We won 105 games in four years with these seniors, appeared in two sectionals and three of four regionals. I believe better things are in store for the East Hamilton program.”
Garland hopes there are no more days like Friday, however.
The Hurricanes loaded the bus at 6:30 a.m. for the trek to Baxter and started the game five hours later.
“That was bad, but Upperman was playing at 10:30 (local time),” Garland said. “There are no excuses.”
The Bees built a 5-0 lead, mainly with a three-run fourth inning, against the Hurricanes.
East Hamilton stormed back with four runs in the fifth, but the inning easily could have been more productive.
The Hurricanes sent 10 batters to the plate, but got only one hit – Kyle Cox’s leadoff single. The four runs were produced by a hit batsman, a wild pitch and two bases-loaded walks. As was the case in the first and first and fourth innings, East Hamilton left the bases loaded after scoring their only runs of the game.
The inning’s totals for East Hamilton went like this: one hit, two hit batsmen, four walks and three outs.
“We could have scored seven or eight runs in that inning with a hit or two,” Garland said.
Upperman used three pitchers – starter Ryan Lafever and relievers Joe Jones and Jared Case – in the fourth. Jones got the win and Case was credited with a save.
First baseman Austin Gatewood went 2-for-2 with a walk and was hit once to pace the Hurricanes’ five-hit attack.
Upperman was led by catcher Mason Simmons, who went 3-for-4. Lafever hit a solo home run, Case was 2-for-4 and Jones had a run-scoring double in the first inning.
The rain impacted the Hurricanes in more ways than one, Garland said.
“We have good speed and the field negated that,” he said. “Hunter Smith couldn’t grip the ball to throw his curve and he was throwing all fastballs. The difference for Upperman in the game was that when Case got off to a shaky start in relief, he settled down and got people out.”
East Hamilton 000 040 0 – 4 5 2
Upperman 101 311 x – 7 10 0
Henshaw, Smith (4), Ungos (6) and Waters; Lafever, Jones (4), Case (4) and Simmons.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)