Ooltewah’s Logan Fugate slammed East Hamilton pitching ace Matty Henshaw’s first offering over the center-field wall for a game-opening home run Friday night at A.C. “Bud” Ball Field.
That was the last damage Henshaw sustained.
The East Hamilton right-hander threw a five-hit complete game and the top-seeded Hurricanes took advantage of four errors to beat the defending District 5-AAA tournament champion Owls, 5-1, and advance to the winner’s bracket final on Sunday.
In an earlier game, No. 2 seed Bradley Central bombed McMinn County with an eight-run fifth inning – all the runs were unearned – and cruised past the Cherokees, 10-5, to set up a semifinal matchup against No. 3 seed Soddy-Daisy on Saturday at 1 p.m.
Hunter Rogers hit a two-run homer and Caleb Pace added a three-run triple to highlight the Bears’ big inning.
Seventh-seeded McMinn County plays No. 6 Walker Valley on Saturday at 4 p.m.
East Hamilton 5, Ooltewah 1: Henshaw wasn’t fazed by Fugate’s lightning-quick homer and simply went about shutting down the Owls over the next six innings. Fugate went 3-for-3, but the rest of Ooltewah’s lineup was 2-for-22 and the 2-5 hitters were 0-for-12.
“Matty did a nice job with his composure after the way things got started,” East Hamilton coach Steve Garland said. “Everybody knows he won’t light up a radar gun, but he’s got a lot of pitch-ability and any coach would like to have him.”
Henshaw allowed two runners in the second inning, but escaped without giving up a run. After that he put the clamps on almost all the Owls hitters – only Mitch Duncan and Kyle Kapherr had hits off Henshaw other than Fugate’s homer and two singles.
Following back-to-back singles by Duncan and Kapherr in the second, Henshaw retired 14 of the last 19 batters, including the final seven to close out the game.
“I felt like Logan saw a good pitch and hit it,” Henshaw said. “I just had to shake it off. You can’t let something like that get in your head.”
Instead, Henshaw was a mental nightmare for the Ooltewah hitters.
East Hamilton (22-13), which has won five in a row and six of its last seven games, got a run in the last of the first, but could have potentially scored more.
Ooltewah starter C.J. Carden walked Hunter Parker and hit Matt Milita and Nicholas Woods to load the bases. With one out Nick Fahler’s sacrifice fly scored Parker, but Henshaw grounded out to cut short the scoring opportunity.
That was about the last bullet Ooltewah (17-13) dodged against the Hurricanes, who have beaten the Owls three times this season.
Henshaw has won two of those matchups.
In the Hurricanes’ third, Milita got a one-out single and Woods became the third batter hit by Carden. Hunter Owen hit into a force out. Fahler singled to left to score Woods. Owen scooted to second, but when Fugate’s throw home got past catcher Brody Binder he took off for third. Carden, backing up the play at the plate, threw wildly past third and Owen scored as the ball sailed into left field.
Fahler, who kept running when throws started flying all over the ballpark, was cut down trying to score by shortstop Duncan’s on-the-mark throw to Binder for the third out.
But the Hurricanes, competing in their first 5-AAA tournament after four years in Class AA, had a 3-1 lead.
“You’re not going to beat a good team throwing the ball all over the place,” Owls coach Brian Hitchcox said. “It’s frustrating to see errors coming from miscommunication or non-communication. We messed up on so many little things I ran out of room on my scorecard writing them down.
“We’re young in the infield, but it’s May and we have to stop doing those things.”
East Hamilton added two insurance runs in the fifth on groundouts by Woods and Owen. Parker put down a sacrifice bunt, but was safe at first when Carden’s throw pulled first baseman Caleb Collins off the base. He scored on Owen’s grounder.
Garett Stone, who singled to left, eventually scored on Woods’ infielder grounder.
“While we didn’t knock the cover off the ball, we kept pressure on Ooltewah by playing small-ball and using our speed,” Garland said.
Bradley Central 10, McMinn County 5: The Bears (18-11) had their hands full with Cherokees left-hander Jake Lingerfelt for four innings.
Bradley’s lone run – it was unearned as well – over that stretch came on Jordan Timmons’ single to left in the fourth that scored designated hitter Logan Blackwell, who reached on an error that would have been the third out.
“We looked a little stale after being off for 10 days,” Bears coach Travis Adams said. “We were rusty and our approach at the plate showed that, but we made some adjustments and that was the key.”
But, the wheels fell off for Lingerfelt and the Cherokees (11-17) in the next inning.
Cal Pickel struck out and Pace lined out to short.
Baylor Terrell walked and Jacob Barnes reached safely on third baseman Tyler Biddle’s throwing error. Terrell scored on the misplay.
Rogers followed with his two-run home run – the first for Bradley all season. Blackwell walked and came home on the first of two doubles by shortstop Tanner Cox.
Cox scored on Timmons’ single. Chandler Duggan walked and Pickel was hit by a pitch. On a 2-2 delivery from reliever Javon Simpson, Pace ripped a bases-clearing triple to cap the eight-run outburst.
At that point all nine Bradley runs were unearned due to McMinn County errors.
“That big inning took the wind out of their sails,” Adams said. “Before Hunter’s home run we were in the dugout looking at each other trying to figure out what was going on. Hunter got a pitch, sat on it and that was big. We got a few more two-out hits and kept it going.”
Bradley Central got four of its eight hits in that uprising.
Timmons went 3-for-4 with two RBIs. Cox was 2-for-2 with a pair of RBIs. Blackwell didn’t have a hit, but scored three times.
The Bears’ lone earned run came in the sixth when Blackwell walked and later scored on Cox’s second double.
That was plenty of offense for the Bears’ winning pitcher, starter Ty King. The right-hander is 6-0 and came into the game with a 1.16 ERA. King went five innings and gave up three hits and two runs. He struck out five and walked three.
Half of McMinn County’s six hits were doubles by Colby Eaton, Hayden Fesmire and Simpson. Fesmire’s two-bagger pushed a run home in the third.
Eaton doubled in the fifth and scored on Duggan’s fielding error at second.
Simpson started the Tribe’s sixth with his double and scored on Drew Godsey’s hit. Godsey eventually scored on a groundout and the final run resulted from reliever Seth Lee’s wild pitch.
“You’ve got to make routine plays to keep you in a game with a chance to win it,” McMinn County coach Matt Ray said. “We don’t make a routine play and that leads to eight unearned runs in that one inning. The only thing we could do after that was go to damage control.”
McMinn County 001 013 0 – 5 6 2
Bradley Central 000 181 x – 10 8 3
Lingerfelt, Simpson (5) and Fesmire; King, Lee (6) and Timmons, Lynn (6).
Ooltewah 100 000 0 – 1 5 4
East Hamilton 102 020 x – 5 5 0
Carden and Binder; Henshaw and Fahler.
Soddy-Daisy vs. Bradley Central, 1 p.m.
Walker Valley vs. McMinn County, 4 p.m.
Cleveland vs. Soddy-Daisy-Bradley loser, 1 p.m.
Ooltewah vs. Walker Valley-McMinn County loser, 4 p.m.
East Hamilton vs. Soddy-Daisy-Bradley winner, 7 p.m.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @larryfleming44)