Third-seeded Bradley Central got a two-hit shutout from right-hander Jacob Maynard in a 4-0 victory over McMinn County on Wednesday night in the District 5-AAA baseball tournament at Soddy-Daisy’s Tom Higgins Field.
In Wednesday’s opening game, No. 4 seed Cleveland cruised past Rhea County, 7-1, behind the five-hit pitching of Taylor Thompson, who got home-run support from Jake Wyrick and Kimsey Bell.
The Blue Raiders (15-19) advance to the second round where they will play top-seed Ooltewah (20-11) on Thursday at 8 p.m.
Walker Valley (18-13), the second seed, plays host Soddy-Daisy (8-21), the No. 7 seed, at 5 p.m.
Maynard (6-3) gave up a two-out single to Jay Odum in the fourth inning and a questionable single to Jake Lingerfelt in the fifth while delivering another pitching gem for the Bears (20-11).
Maynard, who struck out three, locked up in a three-inning pitching duel with McMinn County’s Corbin Powers.
The Bears broke the scoreless battle when Maynard helped his own cause with a home run leading off the fourth inning. Catcher Caleb Pippenger followed with a bloop double to shallow center and scored on a double steal to give Bradley a 2-0 lead.
With Maynard still in complete control, Bradley stretched its lead to 4-0 in the fifth, striking with two out.
Maynard singled to left and scored on Pippenger’s second double and Pippenger came home on Jacob Barnes’ single, the Bears’ third consecutive hit off Powers.
All season the Bears’ offensive punch has come from Maynard, Pippenger and Barnes, their 3-4-5 hitters in the lineup. It was no different on Wednesday. They combined to go 6-for-9, were responsible for all four runs – Pippenger scored twice – and three RBIs.
McMinn County, the No. 6 seed, fell to 5-24 on the season.
Thompson (5-2) was outstanding in the day’s opener, limiting the Golden Eagles (10-15) to a lone run produced by Trevor Sharp’s two-out single in the second inning. After that Thompson retired 11 in a row and finished with seven strikeouts and one walk.
“He’s been good all year long,” Cleveland coach Ted Carson said of his star right-hander. “When he’s on the mound, we’ve always got a chance to win.”
Carson said Thompson’s ERA is below 1.0 and his two losses came in a 1-0 loss to Bradley and a 2-1 decision to Ooltewah, the defending tournament champion.
“I threw pretty good,” Thompson said. “I let my guard down a few times, but felt great and was glad my number was called (to pitch). I love to pitch. I had a few butterflies, but the early lead relaxed me a lot. It’s always good to have a cushion.”
The Blue Raiders scored three runs in the second, chasing Rhea starter Hunter McClendon in the process.
Ryan Adkins, the ninth-place batter in Cleveland’s lineup, drew a bases-loaded walk to force in the first run – Jackson Earle, running for Koltyn Plumb, scored after starting the inning with a single. Reed Allison, who was hit by a pitch, came home on a fielder’s choice. Michael Henderson, who reached on a bunt, scored on Wyrick’s two-0ut single to left.
Bell’s solo blast to left field trigged the Blue Raiders’ three-run fifth.
“That was a monster,” Carson said.
Said Bell of his fourth homer, “That’s probably the longest of the four. It was a 3-2 fastball low and inside, a pitch I like to hit.”
After Wyrick struck out, Eric Powers was hit by a pitch and Thompson reached on a fielding error by Sharp at first base. Plumb’s double to center scored Powers and Earle, again running for Plumb, came home on Adkins’ second bases-loaded walk.
Carson, despite the game starting late due to Rhea not getting notice of its move to a 4 p.m. start, was pleased with his team’s performance.
“Today we got hitting, pitching and defense and it’s probably the most complete game we’ve played all year,” he said.
Wyrick and Plumb each had two hits in Cleveland’s eight-hit attack.
Third baseman Jalen Smith, the district most valuable offensive player in basketball, went 2-for-3 for the fifth-seeded Golden Eagles (10-15).
Rhea County 010 000 0 – 1 5 3
Cleveland 130 030 x – 7 8 2
McClendon, Smith (2), Sharp (6) and Goins; Thompson and Plumb.
McMinn County 000 000 0 – 0 2 1
Bradley Central 000 220 x – 4 7 0
Powers, White (5) and Odum; Maynard and Pippenger.
5 p.m. – Soddy-Daisy vs. Walker Valley
8 p.m. – Cleveland vs. Ooltewah
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)