Pigeon Forge faces test in tournament opener
Pigeon Forge got a reminder on Thursday of just how tough it is to win in May.
The Tigers needed a pair of big hits from two seniors in the fourth inning to break a tie and pull away for a 10-4 victory against a Fulton team they beat 13-3 and 12-1 back in March.
“I was surprised how many runs we didn’t score on them,” said Pigeon Forge’s Chase Effler. “I was up and there were bases loaded (in the third). I rolled over on it. I was trying to hit it too hard.”
That at-bat was an opportunity to blow open a 4-0 game, but instead Fulton (9-19) rallied to tie the District 3-AA tournament opener for both teams with four in the next inning. The defending AA state champions showed their poise, responding in the bottom of the fourth with two runs after Scott Lafollette and Koleman Roach reached second and third with no outs. A four-run sixth sealed the deal.
“The kids have to realize this time of year there is some urgency,” siad Tigers coach Mike Guinn. “I mean, there’s really no tomorrow. You’ve got to come out and play really hard. We’ve been there before. We’ve played some really good competition. There’s no reason not to respond right there.” The victory moves Pigeon Forge (23-9) into a game today with second-seeded Carter. The Tigers needed extra innings to beat the Hornets back on April 18. Since then, they played a tough field at the Mingo Bay Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C. which included a win over unbeaten Wilson Hall (S.C.).
But they also lost to AAA Sevier County earlier this week, a team they had beaten early in the season.
“We’ve got to come out and play the first inning like we played the last three innings,” Roach said. “We’ve got to somehow find a way to come with the heart and the drive that we come with in the later innings all seven innings.”
The finish showed more of the dominant Pigeon Forge team opponents in District 3-AA are used to. The Tigers had eight hits and six runs over the game’s final three innings, including a big pair of scores from underclassmen Anthony Baiamonte and Turner Whaley.
Josh Griffin was as good as he’d been all night on the mound, not allowing a baserunner from the fifth inning on to finish with 10 strikeouts and only two earned runs allowed.
But the 10 runs and 14 hits — five of them from Lafollette — Pigeon Forge ultimately produced seemed pedestrian when the eye wandered to the Tigers’ number of runners stranded: 10. Those are opportunities Roach said the Tigers can’t let get away as the postseason drags on.
“We knew that (fourth) inning we were either going to get it done or watch it go by us,” Roach said. “This team right here, we won’t watch it go by us. We’re going to go out and take what’s ours.”