MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Riverdale scored a run in the bottom of the seventh inning to beat Ooltewah, 2-1, Saturday night in a well- played Class AAA sectional, denying the Owls a berth in the state tournament next week.
Riverdale (27-11) got the game-winning run when leadoff batter Trevin Ayers, hitting with the bases loaded against reliever Zach Thompson, singled to right-center field to push home Brad Woodson.
“This is not the way you want to go out,” Ooltewah coach Brian Hitchcox said in a telephone interview. “We didn’t play great, but we played well. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. At this point you want to play well and we did. It just wasn’t our day.”
It was the Warriors’ second straight 2-1 win. They knocked off Tullahoma by the same score in the Region 4-AAA championship game on Wednesday behind Brady Puckett’s one-hitter and Kaleb Swayze’s home run.
Riverdale will open state tournament play on Tuesday either at Siegel High or Oakland High. The Warriors finished third in the 2012 state tournament during Spring Fling after winning district, region and sectional titles.
Ooltewah, the District 5-AAA regular season and tournament champion, ends its season with a 23-13 record. The Owls lost to Cookeville, 11-9, in the Region 3-AAA title game. Cookeville (34-2-1) lost to Tullahoma, 4-2, on Saturday.
“We played pretty much like we have all year,” Hitchcox said. “We pitched well, played good defense except for a couple of breeze freezes. Against their pitching, we hit 11 balls hard and had some good at-bats.
“I think we struck out five or six times and the last time we faced their guys we struck out 13 times. We just didn’t cash in tonight.”
Owls starter Jackson McClain went 6.1 innings and gave up five hits, two which never left the infield, struck out three and walked none. Thompson relived McClain after Woodson’s one-out double in the seventh and faced three batters.
Thompson gave up a controversial infield hit to Clint McCullough to start his brief stint on the mound.
“Their guy grounds a ball to Kevin Dupree, who gets it and makes a perfect throw to Thompson covering first. (McCullough) is called out and then called safe,” Hitchcox said. “I go out to argue the call the umpire said he never made the out call. So, we’ve got guys at first and second with their nine-hole guy (D.J. Watkins) coming up.”
Hitchcox said McCullough goes to second without a play and Thompson walked Watkins to fill the bases.
Thompson, who has committed to Chattanooga State Community College, got ahead of Ayers with a fastball and then delivered a “good curve” to Ayers, Hitchcox said.
“He went with it and gets a hit to right-center field. Game over,” Hitchcox said. “You can’t control balls hit hard right at people or calls umpires make or don’t make. We gave our all and that’s what the focus has to be.
“This team has the pitching depth to make a run if we had gotten there (state tournament), but it didn’t happen.”
Ooltewah’s lone run came in the fourth inning. Dupree singled and went to third on Drew Williams’ hit. Chase Morrissey’s hit scored Dupree.
Riverdale had taken a 1-0 lead in the third on an infield chopper.
Ooltewah 000 100 0 – 1 5 0
Riverdale 001 000 1 – 2 6 2
Snider, Sutton (7) and Walters; Jackson, Thompson (7) and Binder.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)