CHARLESTON, Tenn – Cleveland pitching ace Camden Sewell is used to the gaudy individual numbers and he rarely disappoints. Unfortunately, he has walked off the mound a few too many times in tough battles such as the one with Walker Valley Tuesday night without the one number he most cherishes.
That number being the one you put in the win column.
But thanks to a wild four-run rally in the seventh inning, his Blue Raider teammates made sure Sewell’s effort would not be in vain as Cleveland handed Walker Valley its first loss of the young season, 4-1, in the District 5-AAA battle.
Sewell lost three times last season and got several no decisions in battles in which he was dominant but unlucky, but the University of Tennessee signee was not to be denied on this brisk and windy evening, striking out 13 Mustangs and allowing just a pair of infield singles.
Nonetheless, this had all the earmarks of a Sewell duel for naught when Walker Valley (6-1, 2-1) pushed across a run in the bottom of the sixth when Sewell’s strikeout for what should have been the third out, eluded the catcher, allowing a runner to score for a 1-0 Mustangs’ lead.
“That’s what you have to do against him, try to scratch out a run anyway you can, and we felt good with that run, but ultimately you have to make plays and we didn’t,” said Walker Valley coach Joe Shamblin.
The 1-0 lead looked particularly good with Matthew Pigg matching Sewell pitch-for-pitch, strikeout-for-strikeout.
The big right-hander carried not only the 1-0 lead to the seventh inning, but had allowed no hits and was a walk away from perfection, setting down 13 of the 19 hitters he had faced via the K.
Of his 88 pitches to that point, only five balls had been put into play and only six others had even been fouled off.
The Blue Raiders would not be detoured, though.
Kellye Cawood broke up the no-no with a laser to center in what was the only hard hit ball of the night for Cleveland. Sewell then hit a chopper that got by a diving first baseman. The ball was fielded by second baseman Kevin Bowerman, but Sewell beat Pigg to the bag for an infield single.
The two hits seemed to rattle Pigg a little as he hit the next batter to load the bases, and when an outside pitch slipped off the catcher’s mitt and to the backstop, Cawood came in with the tying run.
Ryan Lee worked a walk on a full count to load them again. A chopper off Cole Johnson’s was mishandled by Pigg allowing pinch runner Robert Flowers to score the go-ahead run and Pigg’s brilliant night was done after 111 pitches.
Sidewinder Harrison Price relieved and his next two pitches both bounced past the catcher, each one allowing a run in to make it 4-1. Cleveland opted to send to Asa Blake to the mound with Sewell done after his 111 pitches, and Blake set them down in order for the save.
“I felt good that we were going to get that run back. In a game like this, you just have to control what you can control and hope you finally break through. Kudos to (Pigg), he shoved it up us all night long. A lot of respect for the way he pitched. I think last year probably did a lot to build that mental toughness when you go out there and it’s 0-0 for as long as it was,” said Sewell, who moved to 2-0 with 26 strikeouts in 13 innings to date.
For Cleveland (4-3, 2-1) a win over Walker Valley was a long time in coming.
“This is my third year as head coach and I was an assistant another year, and I’ve never been on the winning end of this game. It was a huge district win for us. You just don’t see two horses going at like that too often on the high school level. Maybe the best pitching performance I’ve seen from two guys,” said Cleveland coach Preston Scoggins.
“Camden is just such a competitor and that’s what makes him special in a game like this. It was nice to see us rally like that especially with the aggressive base running. We practice it a lot and all three of those runs were on great dirt reads. It was an exciting game,” Scoggins added.
Sewell lost on opening day last year to Walker Valley in a similar cold and windy day and he knew he would have his hands full with a Mustangs bunch already with six homers on the year.
“I was just happy to beat them finally. It’s been a long time for us around here,” Sewell said.
Thrice Walker Valley managed to get runners to third, one each in the second, third and fourth innings.
Sewell got strikeouts to end the first two threats and right fielder Landen Beaty made a long run to haul in a lazy fly ball in short right to keep it scoreless in the fourth. Both of Walker Valley’s hits were of the infield variety.
“It was nerve wracking out there for sure,” said Pigg, who retired the first 16 hitters before walking a batter in the sixth. “I wasn’t really nervous about the no-hitter, but more so the 1-0 lead heading into the seventh. Camden is a great pitcher and he brings out the best in you. He’s the type of guy you want to pitch against because it forces you to be at your best.”
And as gaudy as all of Sewell’s numbers were, Pigg pitched a virtually identical game. Both allowed two hits, and five base runners each, striking out 13 apiece and ending with 111 pitches each.
Sewell’s bunch just found a way to win this one. For once.
The two teams will tangle again at Cleveland on Wednesday night in a 7 p.m. first pitch start.
CLEVELAND 000 000 4 – 4 2 1
WALKER VALLEY 000 001 0 – 1 2 1
Sewell, Blake (7) and Jones; Pigg, Price (6) and Shamblin.
(Contact James Beach at 1134james@gmail or on twitter @beachnut1134)