Bradley Central right-hander Chandler Hamilton scattered five hits over six innings, the Bears scored three seventh-inning runs to break open a tight game and defeated top-seed East Hamilton, 8-4, Sunday night to reach the championship game of the District 5-AAA baseball tournament at Ooltewah High.
The Bears (20-11) also earned a berth in their first Region 3-AAA tournament since 2008 when coach Travis Adams was guiding his first black-and-gold squad.
Bradley will now await the outcome of two loser’s bracket games to see which team it will face in Wednesday’s title game at 4 p.m. A second game, if necessary, would start 30 minutes after the first.
On Monday, Walker Valley plays Soddy-Daisy at 7 p.m. in an elimination game. East Hamilton will play that winner on Tuesday at 7 p.m. for the right to take on the Bears.
In one of the most memorable games in recent tournament history, Soddy-Daisy’s Dev DeMatteo led off the 11th inning with a home run to give the Trojans a must-win 8-7 victory over Cleveland in a tilt that started 10 hours of prep baseball action before another large crowd at A.C. “Bud” Ball Field.
Between the top and bottom of the sixth inning, Trojans coach Jared Hensley and exchanged heated words in a jaw-to-jaw confrontation in front of the Blue Raiders’ dugout. Players from both teams were psyched and some fans were downright obnoxious.
Order was quickly restored and players and coaches exchanged handshakes afterward.
In the middle game on a rare three-game Sunday schedule, Walker Valley made sure there would be a new champion this season when the Mustangs whipped defending champion Ooltewah, 7-0, behind the pitching and hitting of John Simmons.
Bradley Central 8, East Hamilton 4: Hamilton got a slice of revenge in his rematch with the Hurricanes.
On the first day of the season, Adams called on Hamilton in relief in a game East Hamilton eventually won 7-6 on the Bears’ diamond.
“I brought him in to close that game and he was a little nervous and didn’t get it done,” Adams said. “Thirty games later he gets another chance in a game like this and performs.”
Hamilton, a junior, had the earlier sub-par effort against the Hurricanes in his mind on Sunday and effectively controlled the regular-season champions.
“The first time I faced them was my first varsity appearance,” he said. “I just felt like today I wanted some revenge. I was glad it was them in this game so I could redeem myself.”
Hamilton (6-2) gave up a RBI hit to Matt Watters in the second inning. He retired eight in a row before Matt Milita reached on a single, stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch before Nicholas Woods’ single sent him home.
The Hurricanes (22-14) added a couple runs in the sixth that trimmed the Bears’ lead to 5-4.
But Hamilton had done his job. Adams called on his ace, Tyler King, to pitch the seventh and the Hurricanes went down in order to end the game.
“I was pretty excited for the game,” Hamilton said. “It’s probably the biggest game I’ve pitched in and I was a little nervous, but once I got out there I settled down. I did want to finish the game, though.”
Adams, however, knew he had gotten Hamilton’s best.
“We felt confident coming into the season with our one and two guys,” Adams said, “but we wanted to find the number three guy. Chandler came in as a position player and not a pitcher. But he’s worked and turned out to be pretty dang tough. He battled all night and never lost his composure.
“When something went bad he just refocused.”
Bradley turned to small-ball to score three insurance runs in the seventh. Jordan Timmons, who went 3-for-3, Tanner Cox and Chandler Duggan each singled to load the bases – the last two hits being bunts.
Cal Pickel was hit by a pitch to force in one run. Cox came home on a wild pitch and Pickel scored on Nicholas’ error at shortstop.
The Bears, who reached the 2008 sub-state round in Adams’ first year guiding the program, took a 3-1 lead in the third inning by scoring on a bases-loaded walk and a two-run miscue by Woods.
“They beat us at our own game,” Hurricanes coach Steve Garland said. “Their guys competed with composure and our guys didn’t. Bradley is a good team and well-coached. They did the little things well and little things win ballgames.
“We’ve got to regroup now and come back Tuesday and win.”
Bradley gets two days to rest up for the championship game, but will do so with the knowledge it already has the region berth in hand.
“I haven’t gone in football or baseball,” Simmons said, “so it feels kind of good to have the opportunity.”
Soddy-Daisy 8, Cleveland 7 (11 innings): The two rivals were tied 5-5 after six innings.
Cleveland’s Parker Carson, the No. 9 hitter and coach Ted Carson’s son, belted a towering homer to left field and Derek Nichols added a two-run triple to highlight a four-run fifth, giving the Blue Raiders (10-20) a 4-2 advantage.
The Trojans (18-15) got three in the bottom of the inning on two bases-loaded walks and a fielder’s choice.
In the ninth, Cleveland took a 7-5 lead on Nichols’ single and Koltyn Plumb getting plunked with a pitch with the bases loaded.
The heat was on the Trojans.
Caden Ricketts led of the Trojans’ ninth with a double to left. With one out Cale Morgan reached on second baseman Jay McIntire’s error and Tre Carter flied out to right. DeMatteo singled home courtesy runner Austin Cooke.
The next batter, Austin Hickey, popped a ball sky-high and Plumb, playing first base, had trouble with the wind and sun and dropped the ball, allowing Morgan to score the tying run.
Then, in the 11th, DeMatteo, who went 3-for-6 with four RBIs and a run scored, cracked a 3-1 pitch from Chantz Placek over the left-field wall for the dramatic game-winner.
“I wanted to tell Dev before his previous at-bat to be like his older brother, Damo, who did some really good things for our 2010-11 team (Damo is now at Memphis University),” Hensley said. “But I didn’t.
“I’m so proud of that kid. He’s been a good one for us and that was a big moment for him.”
DeMatteo was mobbed by exuberant teammates at home plate.
“I feel great,” he said. “Their guy threw me the right pitch and I hit the home run. I knew the team needed me. I wasn’t nervous in that situation. I just wanted to get the job done.”
It was DeMatteo’s second homer of the season.
Trojans starter Andy Wright went six innings and gave up 10 hits and five runs before giving way to reliever Gavin Rogers, who went the rest of the way.
Rogers yielded four hits and two runs to get the win.
“Andy did a great job,” Hensley said. “They roughed him up in that one inning, but he kept battling. Gavin wanted the ball today and was unreal. He made some big pitches.”
Cleveland had three players – McIntire, Hunter Oliver and Taylor Thompson, the Blue Raiders’ starting pitcher – with three hits each. Those three players were a combined 9-for-15 with five runs scored and one RBI.
“That was a great high school ballgame,” Ted Carson said. “They ended up scoring last.”
By game’s end Carson and Hensley were ready to dismiss their verbal sparring session that turned up the heat on an already emotional ballgame.
“It was just one of those things,” Carson said. “Nothing to it. We all shook hands.”
But Carson was disappointed in how the game ended.
“We had an opportunity to end it there in the ninth, but couldn’t get it done,” he said. “We had another chance in the 10th. We didn’t come up with a timely hit.”
Walker Valley 7, Ooltewah 0: There was little drama between the Mustangs (12-19) and the Owls (17-14).
Walker Valley’s John Simmons, pitching on two days’ rest after throwing 90-plus pitches in a 3-0 loss to Soddy-Daisy on Thursday, throttled the Owls’ lineup. He gave up five hits, striking out six and walking two.
Only three Owls runners reached second base and Simmons finished strong by retiring seven of the last eight batters. His task was made easier when the Mustangs scored six unearned runs in the sixth innings.
“During the season (Ooltewah) blue us out 12-0 and 8-2,” Simmons recalled, “and they beat me in one of those games. I didn’t do anything differently today, but everything they hit was a fly ball or a weak grounder.
“I threw a lot of fastballs and not much besides that. My record is 4-3, but I haven’t had a lot of run support – my ERA is in the low 3s – so that one big inning felt great.”
In the inning that ruined the Owls’ chances to repeat as tournament champions, Walker Valley got a two-run double from Simmons, a two-run single by Brian Oliver, a RBI hit by Dillan Church and Elijah West’s bases-loaded walk.
“John was amazing today,” Mustangs coach Joe Shamblin said. “He sure made my day easier. He threw 90-plus pitches (Thursday) and 80-plus more today. We’ve now won five or our last six games and I hope the momentum carries us through (Monday).”
Shamblin put the six-run inning into perspective.
“We haven’t had many six run games,” he said.
Coach Brian Hitchcox was clearly disappointed in his fourth-seeded Owls ending their season with the loss to No. 6 Walker Valley.
A year ago the Owls were in the Region 3-AAA title game where they lost to Cookeville, 11-9.
“We picked a bad time to play probably our worst game of the season,” Hitchcox said. “I don’t think we were flat, but when you face good pitching and don’t hit it can make you look flat.
“Simmons threw really well on two day’s rest after throwing 95 pitches and that worked out for them. We pretty much gave them all those runs in the sixth. I have to do a better job coaching my guys and they’ve got to be more committed. We will start practice (Monday) for next season. This is unacceptable.”
Brody Binder was the only Ooltewah player with two hits.
Brian Oliver joined Simmons with two hits – a double and single – for the Mustangs.
Cleveland 000 041 002 00 – 7 14 2
Soddy-Daisy 000 230 002 01 – 8 11 0
Thompson, Dykes (5), Placek (5) and Oliver; Wright, Rogers (7) and Clift.
Walker Valley 001 006 0 – 7 9 0
Ooltewah 000 000 0 – 0 5 1
Simmons and Oliver; Duncan, Walls (7) and Binder.
Bradley Central 000 311 3 – 8 9 1
East Hamilton 010 012 0 – 4 5 3
Hamilton, King (7) and Timmons; Smith, Hollingshead (4), Aslinger (6) and Fahler; Hamilton, King (7) and Timmons.
Walker Valley vs. Soddy-Daisy, 7 p.m.
East Hamilton vs. Walker Valley-Soddy-Daisy winner, 7 p.m.
2014 Regular Season All-District 5-AAA Team
East Hamilton - Matty Henshaw, Nicholas Woods, Hunter Owen, Hunter Parker, Hunter Smith, Matt Milita
Bradley Central - Ty King, Jacob Barnes, Brett Standifer, Logan Blackwell, Baylor Terrell
Soddy Daisy - Christian Amos, Tre Carter, Andy Wright, Dillon Clift
Ooltewah - Logan Fugate, Brody Binder, Hayden Bradley
Cleveland - Taylor Thompson, Hunter Oliver
Walker Valley - John Simmons, Bradley Smith
McMinn County - Jake White, Corey Edgemon
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @larryfleming44)