McCallie’s Ethan Cady got a chance to play against Tyner on Saturday because of something that occurred Friday night.
Boy, did he ever take advantage of the opportunity.
Cady, a sophomore right fielder, slammed a three-run homer in a six-run first inning and McCallie rolled to an 11-4 victory over Tyner in the Wildcat Classic at Hixson High School.
“Ethan was in the lineup because we had a player suspension for something that happened (Friday) night,” McCallie coach Greg Payne said. “He can hit the ball and when he’s in there I don’t think we take a step back at all.”
Cady went 1-for-2, scored three runs and drove in three with his first varsity home run that bounced off the scoreboard in right field.
“The pitch was a fastball inside, a lefty’s dream,” Cady said. “I looked up at saw it was soaring and when it hit the scoreboard I knew it was gone.”
Everybody else at John Plumlee Stadium knew long before the ball clanged off the scoreboard the ballpark would not hold the blast off the left-handed Cady’s bat.
It was a bomb and came off Tyner pitching ace Chae Butler.
McCallie (8-2) and ranked No. 6 in Division II-AA by coachT.com, will play host Hixson in Sunday’s championship game at 2 p.m., weather permitting – rain is in the forecast.
Butler walked Tyler Payne, McCallie’s starting pitcher, to start the game and he promptly stole second and third and scored when William Korn reached on an error. Christian Burnette and Matthew Brock had back-to-back singles, but Tyson Buchanan’s infield grounder was turned into a force out at home.
Butler struck out Quinn Smith and Winston Whitener laced a single to right that scored Burnette and Brock to push the lead to 3-0.
Cady worked Butler to a 3-2 count and fouled off a pitch. On Butler’s next delivery Cady went yard, stretching the Blue Tornado advantage to 6-0.
“I made a bad coaching decision in this game when I decided to let our catcher call pitches to kind of get the hang of it,” Tyner coach Rob Flowers said. “We threw way too many fastballs to a good fastball-hitting team and we paid for it.”
Flowers started calling pitches in the second inning and Butler needed only eight pitches to retire the Blue Tornado after using 36 in the first. Korn singled to center with one out, but was thrown out trying to steal second.
“I should have been calling them from the beginning,” Flowers said.
Butler gave up a two-out hit to Smith in the third and Whitener, a starter on McCallie’s basketball team, struck out to end the third inning.
Tyner, which beat Springfield, 11-8, in the game prior to playing McCallie, got back in the game in the bottom of the third.
Payne retired Sadik Spence on a fly ball to right and Jalen Ross struck out.
Mike Haywood walked and Drake Spencer reached on a fielding error by Whitener at first.
On a 2-1 pitch, Tyner catcher Bryan Wilson cracked a three-run homer to right that cut McCallie’s lead in half. Brandon Terry struck out to end the threat.
“Bryan can hit anywhere in our lineup and he’s a good hitter,” Flowers said. “That was his first bomb of the year.”
Butler was back in trouble in the fourth after walking Cady and Spencer Morgan. Both runners moved up a base on Payne’s sacrifice bunt. Cady scored on Korn’s groundout and Morgan came across when Burnette singled to left field.
That pushed the McCallie lead to 8-3.
Smith and Whitener reached on successive errors starting the fifth inning and Cady was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Payne’s one-out single to center scored Smith and Whitener and chased Butler. Flowers brought in Morgan, who had been playing center field, to relieve Butler.
Morgan walked Korn and gave up a sacrifice fly to Burnette, pushing Cady across with McCallie’s final run.
“We lost to East Hamilton during the week and didn’t really execute very well,” Greg Payne said. “We’ve done a better job with that in this tournament. And we’ve pitched well and ran the bases pretty good.
“We don’t preach getting hits; we preach hitting the ball hard by making solid contact.”
The Blue Tornado scored 33 runs and gave up 11 while beating South Pittsburg (3-1), Franklin Road Academy 8-6) and Central (11-0) before thumping the Rams. Tyner (5-4) lost to Hixson, McCallie and Gwinnett and knocked off Springfield.
McCallie 600 230 – 11 8 2
McCallie 003 001 – 4 4 4
Payne, Burnette (5) and Smith; Butler, Ryals (5) and Wilson.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)