Tigers, Bears, Eagles score big wins
With wins some of the best teams in the Knoxville area Thursday night, the baseball teams from Pigeon Forge, Sevier County and Seymour all proved they’re for real.
The Sevier County Smoky Bears (3-0 overall) toppled last year’s state runner-up, Bearden, 3-2, as part of the BSN Team Sports Classic Tournament behind a sterling performance from starting pitcher Dillon Cate.
In Dandridge, the Pigeon Forge Tigers (3-0 overall) rode the arms of Drake Byrd and Thomas Simms to a 6-1 victory over AAA power Jefferson County.
And at Karns, the Seymour Eagles (2-0 overall) got a 12-strikeout performance from right-hander Corey Heard to earn an impressive 3-2 victory over the Beavers.
At Bearden, the Smoky Bears got a 10-strikeout complete game from Cate, an ETSU signee. The right-hander allowed only two hits, despite walking five hitters in the game.
“It was a great game,” SCHS coach Casey Taylor said of the 3-2 win over the Bulldogs. “It’s a good win for this team and this program.
“Cate was phenomenal.”
Taylor said the Bears worked their gameplan to perfection.
“We had a really good idea what we wanted to do against their players, and we had a guy on the mound that could execute it. He just had an outstanding game. He threw lights out. He just beat them.”
At the plate, senior second baseman Dylan Ford was the game’s hero, as he delivered the game-winning blow — and his first career home run — in the seventh inning.
“He got him one,” Taylor said. “He’s been stugg a little bit and hopefully that’ll give him some confience.
“(Bearden starter Tavis Shuler) left him a fastball up, he just snapped his wrists and got it,” the coach said. “It was his first homer, so he was excited, the kids were excited and we’ll take it.”
Cate added a pair of hits for the Purple and White, while Dallas Gossett and Nick Clabo also added hits for the SCHS club.
Pigeon Forge’s one-sided win over the Jefferson County Patriots, a AAA state sectional qualifier last season, was somewhat surprising, despite all of the hype surrounding the Tigers this season.
It was the biggest start ever on the mound for senior Drake Byrd, a Belmont signee known more for his slick play at shortstop and lively bat than his occasional pitching.
While Byrd didn’t allow a hit in 22⁄3 innings, he did leave in a jam in the second, making way for left-handed sophomore Thomas Sims with the bases loaded in the third.
But Simms retired the side and went 41⁄3 innings, facing just one batter over the minimum the rest of the way, to earn the victory.
“Thomas Sims was very good,” PF coach Mike Guinn said. “He had four Ks, and faced just one over the minimum.”
In all, the PF pitching staff allowed just one hit in the game.
Byrd was 3-for-4 at the plate for the Tigers, who collectively tallied 11 hits — all singles.
Wil Crowe also had a multiple-hit game, notching two singles in the victory.
“(The Tigers) showed up,” Guinn said. “They showed what they can do.”
At Karns, the Seymour Eagles got a great outing from Corey Heard and another solid performance at the plate from Hunter Neff.
The Eagles vastly improved righty fanned 12 Beavers hitters in six innings of work. All of Karns’ damage was done early, in the first inning, and from then Heard was cruising.
“He pitched really well,” Seymour coach Scott Norman said. “He was in a groove.”
Eagles pitching ace Hunter Neff, who pitched the Eagles’ opener earlier in the week, continued his torrid pace at the plate to start the season.
Neff was 4-for-5 against Cherokee in the team’s first game and followed that with a 4-for-4 night against Karns Thursday.