Morristown East captured the baseball city championship by jumping out to a big lead and putting down a furious final-inning rally by West for an 8-6 victory on Senior Night Friday at Sherwood Park.
The Hurricanes took an 8-2 lead into the seventh before West banged out four hits and scored four times in getting the tying run to the plate before East relief pitcher Spencer Justice got the final out on a bouncer back to the mound.
It was the sixth victory against 20 losses for Coach J. D. Newsom’s club and marked the first time all season they have won back to back games.
Seniors Hunter Thompson and Braxton Hanshaw were honored in pregame ceremonies.
The win also moved the Hurricanes up a notch in the Inter Mountain Conference as they wound up tied with Cocke County for fifth and will get the fifth seed in a tie-breaker. Both teams finished at 3-9.
West is 3-24 for the year and will be the seventh tournament seed after finishing 0-12 in the conference.
Exact pairings and playing dates and time will be set at a coaching meeting next week. The tournament is expected to be played with all games at the higher seed and begin on Thursday.
Blake Creech collected three hits to lead the Hurricanes’ nine-hit attack. Cole Grizzell added a pair of singles and Jesse Haase and Justice chipped in a double each.
The Trojans outhit the winners by finishing with 11. Tayshawn Griffin, Jordan Watson and Rylin King all had two with Charlie Byerley adding a double.
Lance Fugate got the mound verdict over Malakhi Isom. Fugate was relieved by Justice with two out in the fifth.
Newsom was pleased for his team. “This was another big win for us tonight with a lot of positives. Winning the city championship and getting a win for out seniors were both really important to us.
“We still made some mistakes that we have to get cleaned up but we were able to overcome them and still come out with a win,” Newsom added.
The coach said, “I thought we hit the ball pretty well. Blake and Cole gave us five hits down in the order and its big when we’re able to get production in those spots.
“I thought Lance did a phenomenal job on the mound for us and we had another one of our better pitchers available when we changed,” he said. “I thought Spencer looked a little rusty but he battled. I went out there at the end and asked if he wanted me to bring somebody else in. He said I’m going to finish this thing and he did.”
Newsom closed by saying, “I’m really proud of the guys. They picked each other up and we responded when we needed to. West battled right to the end and I give them credit.”
West coach Justin Pickett said, “Our guys battled right down to the last out tonight. That’s the thing with these guys and I keep saying it over and over again.
“You know, with the season we’ve had and especially with such young guys, it would have been easy to go out there and just quit and lay over. But they don’t do that, they find a way to keep battling.”
Pickett commented, “Through the middle of the game, we’ve got to find a way to do better. Whether it’s better pitching or better defense or better hitting. We have to play an entire game and not just try to come back with a big inning.”
The coach said, “We gave them some runs again tonight and those were just simple execution plays that we’re not making. I think a lot of it is immaturity even this late in the season. But we’ll work things out and we’ve got better days ahead of us.”
Those plays started early on Friday as the Hurricanes scored twice in the first when a hit batter was the only offensive thing on the scorebook. That coupled with three errors put West behind for good.
East added single markers in the third and fourth. Hanshaw singled and scored when Eli Seals reached on an error in the third while Creech singled, went to second on a ground out, stole third and scored on a ground out by Thompson in the fourth.
The Trojans had chances but couldn’t cash in. In the second Griffin, Watson and King all had hits and East committed two errors. But West still didn’t score as it had a runner thrown out trying to steal third and another thrown out at the plate on King’s hit.
After leaving two more on in the fourth, the Trojans finally scored in the fifth. The first batter reached on an error but was forced out at second on attempted bunt. Byerly then delivered a double to knock in a run. Bryson Jenkins walked and Justice came to the mound.
He retired the first man he faced but Griffin singled in a run to cut the lead to 4-2. Justice struck out the next batter to end the threat.
The ‘Canes got those two back in the bottom of the inning. Justice opened with a double to the gap in left-center field. Grizzell singled him home and then scored as Creech doubled just inside the third base line.
West left two more on in the top of the sixth and East upped the lead to 8-2 in the bottom of the frame. Haase had a double and Seals reached on an outfield error. After a strike out both runners scored one on a passed ball and the other on a wild pitch.
But the Trojans refused to go quietly. Jenkins led off with a hit before a bouncer to the mound for the first out. Griffin was walked intentionally and Brock Shultz laced a single to left to make it 8-3.
Beau King’s hit scored Griffin and Watson rapped a hit that made it 8-5. The final run scored as Rylin King got on on a fielder’s choice that saw shortstop Thompson make a great play. The throw was high and Thompson was off the bag when he caught the ball but he managed to tag the runner coming from first.
Justice got the last out on a ball hit back to him.