There was a lot more than meets the eye in what turned out to be an impressive 9-4 win for Signal Mountain Wednesday night at Red Bank.
In six District 6-AA series openers this year, the Signal Mountain baseball nine have made some pretty impressive statements, outscoring the league opposition 77-4 in sweeping all six openers in the league home-and-home series.
In the opener on Tuesday, Sam Witherspoon tossed a three-hitter and the Eagles pounded out 14 hits in an easy 12-2 win over Red Bank.
Twice this year, though, the Eagles have found out first hand that every day is a different day when it comes to baseball, dropping games twice on the heels of 10-0 and 13-0 shutouts the night before.
“We were determined to not squander away the chance at a sweep tonight.
We wanted to finish this one,” said Eagles’ catcher Carter Cannon.
And finish it they did, putting away a pesky Lion team that may be more resilient than any other in town.
The Eagles scored eight runs in the final four innings to erase a 2-1 deficit to keep pace with Hixson for the battle for 6-AA supremacy. The two split earlier this year and each have two league losses.
“We’ve been lackadaisical in a couple of games this year and let that second game come back and bite us. You get that sometimes with a young team, but tonight was a good step forward,” said Signal Mountain coach Josh Gandy.
If anyone was going to come back from the thumping administered to them by Signal Mountain on Tuesday night, it would be this Red Bank squad.
After opening the season 0-6, the Lions had reeled off 10 wins in 12 tries to get back in the thick of things. Injuries have slowed the momentum some, but Gandy knew he was going to get the Lions’ best.
“We control our own destiny in the district, but we know we are only one slip away from not being in that position because of Hixson. Red Bank always plays and (Madox) Wilkey had great stuff tonight.
“I think I was most proud of the approach we took with him. He was low in the zone all night, but the few times he left something up or over the plate, we had hitters take advantage of it. Again, with a young bunch, it’s good to see,” Gandy added.
No one took more advantage of it than Collin Poole, who came to bat in the seventh needing a homer to complete the cycle. He doubled in the Eagles’ first run in the second, had a bunt hit for a single to plate another in a three-run fourth, and tripled to open the sixth. He had to settled for a measly RBI in the final inning.
“Yeah, I was aware of it (cycle), but I didn’t want to put too much thought into it. I just wanted to hit something hard and drive in a run that last at-bat. Coach has been preaching to us a lot about hitting to the backside, and I’ve trusted that approach,” said Poole.
“A cycle would have been nice, but a win is nicer.”
Signal Mountain (13-11, 10-2) got a workman-like performance from pitcher Collin Farr, who managed to make it into the seventh inning thanks to shutdown innings in the fourth, fifth and sixth frames.
He had 77 pitches after four and would have had more if not for a trio of double plays turned by his middle infield.
“It was one of those games where we had guys up early warming up, but he said ‘coach, I’ve got this’ and went out with a 10-pitch and a nine-pitch inning to get it to the seventh. And yeah, those double plays were big,” Gandy said.
After all, they do say they are a pitcher’s best friend.
Shortstop Drew Lowry, who along with Farr are the only returning starters from a year ago, teamed with eighth-grader Brennen Weigert in the first inning to end the inning. In the third, with Red Bank owning a 2-1 lead and loading the bases,
Weigert fielded the grounder and flipped to Lowry who completed the inning-ender. The two turned a third one for good measure in the fifth with another 6-4-3.
In the meantime, Signal Mountain started to heat up at the plate.
Wilkey, who struck out nine with a hard curve and located fastball, ran into initial trouble in the fourth when Lowry hit the first pitch of the inning into the gap for a stand-up triple. Farr followed with a laser up the middle on the very next pitch to tie it. An error put runners at second and third, and Poole bunted to no man’s land and the catcher had to eat it as the run scored.
A wild pitch made it 4-2 for the Eagles.
In the fifth, Cannon had the first of his two two-run doubles, a rocket in the right field gap. He hit an almost identical ball in the seventh to score two more insurance runs. Poole had the four hits to join Cannon with three ribbies apiece and was a Lion killer in the two games with six hits in eight plate appearances. Farr added two more hits in a 10-hit attack.
Zach Eich was the lone Red Banker with multiple hits, collecting two while Wilkey and Ethan Terry each drove in runs with singles.
Signal Mountain has one series left with Tyner to close the year, while Hixson plays Howard.
SIGNAL MOUNTAIN 010 320 3 – 9 10 1
RED BANK 020 100 1 – 4 8 3
Farr, Guagenti (7) and Cannon; Wilkey, Eich (7) and Massengale.
(Contact James Beach at email@example.com or via Twitter @beachnut1134)