In a high school baseball game pitting two of the three top teams in District 6-AA, Tyner’s Rams had just enough hitting to break up a pitching duel between two impressive right-handers Tuesday night at John Plumlee Stadium.
Tyner’s Chae Butler got the best of Hixson’s Alex Prewitt, throwing a three-hit shutout and Sea-Sea Battle and Jalen Ross provided clutch hitting as the Rams posted a 2-0 victory to hand the Wildcats their first district loss of the season.
Prewitt, who went into the game with a 4-0 record, scattered six hits and struck out 10 in a tough-to-swallow loss. He fanned at least one Tyner batter in all seven innings.
The Rams improved to 12-8 overall and 6-1 in district play. Hixson fell to 13-8 and 6-1. Both teams are one-half game behind Central’s Purple Pounders (8-1), who beat Red Bank, 5-4, on Tuesday.
“We’ve put ourselves in position to do something good in the district,” Tyner coach Rob Flowers said. “We split with Central and we need to get back-to-back wins against Hixson to stay in this thing.”
The Rams host the Wildcats on Wednesday to wrap up the home-and-home series. Game time is 7 p.m.
“We didn’t come out ready to play tonight,” Hixson coach Michael Green said. “We get them again (Wednesday) and we need to play better. We still have to play Central and they have to play Red Bank. We’re still in it.”
The Rams got singles by Jalen Ross – he went 2-for-3 in the game – and Sadik Spence in the first and second innings, respectively, but still were scoreless against Prewitt, who was efficient in throwing 87 pitches, including 67 strikes.
In the Rams’ decisive third inning, C.J. Ryals, batting ninth in the order, reached on shortstop Chase Jones’ throwing error that pulled first baseman Andrew Rollins off the bag.
Battle smashed Prewitt’s first pitch for a triple to center field that Tanner Moylan chased down at the fence and Ryals easily scored the game’s first run.
“That’s another notch on my belt,” Battle said. “It was a fastball right down the middle and my dad – he played at Brainerd – always tells me to see the ball, hit the ball.”
On his next delivery, Prewitt unleashed a wild pitch and Battle scrambled to second. Two pitches later Ross punched a run-scoring single to left field and the speedy Battle scored to stretch the Rams’ lead to 2-0.
“Now we have to do it again (Wednesday),” Battle said.
Although Butler was dominant at times, the Wildcats caused him some jittery moments throughout the well-played game, which was completed in 1 hour and 43 minutes.
“Chae pitched a heck of a game,” Flowers said. “Sea-Sea got that big hit in the third and Chae kept his head when Hixson put some runners on base, especially in the fourth.”
The Wildcats were patient and made Butler work. The big right-hander went to either 3-1 or 3-2 counts on 11 batters, including four in the fourth inning when Hixson had its best chance to score.
Prewitt started the inning with a groundout – the count was 3-2 – to Ross at shortstop.
Butler walked Rollins on a 3-1 pitch. Butler struck out Austin Gilkey on a 3-2 fastball, but walked Gill Brown on a 3-2 offering.
Bradley Burris slashed a sharp single to right field – the first hit off Butler – and Drake Parker fielded the ball and came up throwing. Rams catcher Bryan Wilson snagged Parker’s perfect one-hop throw and tagged out a sliding Rollins at the plate to end the inning.
“Hixson fought hard all night and Parker made a great throw from right field on that play,” Flowers said. “If he doesn’t do that and Hixson scores, it could have changed the game.”
“That was a tough one,” he said. “Up to that point we had one hit and you’ve got to send him Rollins, test the (right fielder). The kid just made a great throw.”
Not only did Parker’s sensational throw home thwart Hixson’s rally, it appeared the game-changing play took away the Wildcats’ momentum as well.
Butler, who tossed 61 strikes among his 110 pitches, struck out John Mulkey and Conner Atwood to start the fifth, but walked Moylan. Jones grounded out to end the inning.
In the sixth, Butler sandwiched strikeouts of Prewitt and Gilkey around an infield hit – a line-drive rocket by Rollins that struck third baseman Willie Stewart on the left wrist – and retired Brown on a pop to second baseman Spence, who earlier on Tuesday was named to the Tennessee Sports Writers Association’s Class AA All-State basketball team, to continue the shutout performance.
“I felt strong and my teammates were backing me up,” Butler said. “I was working hard on every pitch, but always felt good out there.”
Butler needed just 26 pitches to get through the fifth and sixth innings.
He was downright nasty in the seventh.
Butler whiffed Burris and Mulkey to start the inning. Atwood slapped a single to left to extend the Wildcats’ hopes for a rally.
Pinch-hitter Logan Rigsby, who played right field the entire game while Atwood served as the designated hitter, went down swinging to end the game.
Butler struck out nine and walked six, but allowed just one runner – Rollins – to pass second base. And he was thrown out at the plate.
“We didn’t play so well early on this season, but we’re coming together now and we’re winning together as a family,” Butler said.
Butler’s pitching counterpart, Prewitt, was upbeat even though he and the Wildcats came up short in the crucial series opener.
“I was trying to mow them down, but they got a couple hits that scored runs – and it was just that one inning – and we just couldn’t hit the ball. We needed to swing the bats better. Their pitcher is good, but we made him look a lot better. They shut us down.”
Tyner 002 000 0 – 2 6 0
Hixson 000 000 0 – 0 3 1
Butler and Wilson; Prewitt and Gilkey.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)