Bumper Reese was a pretty happy fellow early Friday evening.
His Signal Mountain Eagles didn't play perfect baseball by any stretch, but they did what they had to do to beat host Chattanooga Christian in the first game of a Best-Of-Three semifinal series in the District 7-AA tournament.
If there had to be star for the third-seeded Eagles, the choice would be freshman pitcher Seth Wicker, who improved to 6-2 with the win.
Wicker was replaced by Jackson Etter with one out in the seventh as he had reached his pitch count, but he was impressive up to that point as he had a season-high 11 strikeouts while allowing two runs on seven hits. He also had three walks and he hit one.
"I had fun out there," the slender 15-year-old southpaw expressed after the game.
"I was a little nervous at the start, but I just tried to focus on my job. I feel like it may have been my best game of the year as I had good stuff. My breaking ball was really working," he added.
Reese is just happy that he wears a Signal Mountain uniform and that he'll be available for three more years.
"Seth has throw well all year as he's a tough freshman. He normally goes five or six innings, so tonight was his longest outing so far," he praised Wicker.
"I'm very pleased with the way we played. We didn't bunt like I wanted, but we can fix that. But I thought we had some timely hits and we ran the bases well. It's always good to get that first win in a short series like this, but we still have to win one more.
"Chattanooga Christian has a very good team and they're very capable of winning the next two, but this is a good win for us," Reese said after his team had improved to 22-8 with their second tournament win in two days.
The Eagles only had five hits for the game, but Chattanooga Christian made three errors and Signal Mountain took advantage.
Catcher Chris Feemster, the only Eagle with two hits, beat out an infield single with one out in the second before Walter Gailmard followed with a line single to right. Lee Nagle got hit by a pitch to load the bases before pinch runner William Dowling scored the first run on a wild pitch.
The second run came on a double steal with Gailmard beating the throw to the plate after Nagle had swiped second.
Feemster reached on an infield error to lead off the fourth and again Dowling scored on a two-out single by Kaleb Menzel.
Feemster was again involved in Signal's final run as he ripped a one-out double down the line in left, driving in Garrett Hensley, who had led off the inning by reaching on another CCS miscue.
The Chargers finally got on the board with a single run in the fifth. Brandon Mason led off with a walk before stealing second. He raced home with the first run on a single by Josh Taylor.
Then in the bottom of the sixth, CCS got a little bit closer with its second run. Logan Phillips reached on a Signal Mountain error to start things off and he scored on a one-out single by John Alston.
The Chargers had runners on base in every inning as they left 10 men stranded, including two in the first and the bases loaded in the second.
CCS coach Joel Johnson knows that his team is fully capable of coming back on Saturday, but Friday's loss hurt.
"That was a tough one," he said after his team fell to 19-12 for the season.
"That Wicker kid really pitched well as he's good, but his curve kept us guessing all night long. We helped them score a few of their runs as we didn't make plays we normally make. We just didn't execute like we know how, but their pitcher did his job and he deserves all the credit.
"The good news is that we're not dead. We still get to play again tomorrow. Logan Phillips will pitch for us and he will give us a good shot at winning," Johnson nodded.
Senior Zach Mercer went the distance for the Chargers and was tagged with the loss after giving up just five hits and one walk. He finished with nine strikeouts.
Mercer and Jared Miller were the only two CCS players with two hits.
The second game of this series will be at Signal Mountain Saturday night with the first pitch scheduled for 6 p.m. The third game -- if needed -- would be back at Chattanooga Christian on Monday at 6.
SIGNAL MOUNTAIN 020 110 0 -- 4 5 3
CHATTANOOGA CHRISTIAN 000 011 0 -- 2 8 3
Wicker, Etter (7) and Feemster; Mercer and Taylor.
(email John Hunt at nomarthonmoose@Comcast.net)