Matthews grinds out a run for Sevier County in 1-0 victory
The word grind gets tossed around a lot these days on ball fields and courts.
The images of a weighed-down struggle the word inspires may be the best way to picture what the Sevier County baseball team faced on Wednesday. The Smoky Bears seemed stuck in the mud against Jefferson County at Smokies Park one day after they put 11 runs on the board. This time, Sevier County was popping the ball up all over the place.
“I felt like we should’ve made some better adjustments,” said Bears coach Casey Taylor. “I felt like we could’ve hit some balls hard. I felt like we could’ve used this field to our advantage. We just weren’t able to do that.”
Sevier County made up for those struggles at the plate with a speedy Devante Matthews on the base paths. The Bears’ No. 9 hitter went 2 for 2, reaching on a solid single in the fifth before stealing second and coming home on a passed ball for the only run of a 1-0 victory. Nick Osborne made that run stand up with a crisp seven innings of one-hit baseball. Osborne walked two and struck out four.
“My defense is playing really well behind me,” Osborne said. “Again, we had no errors tonight, which is big. A couple great plays in the field. Everybody’s making great plays right now. It’s really easy to pitch when your defense is playing behind you.”
It wasn’t so easy at the plate. Ten of the Bears’ 18 outs were fly balls against pitcher Matt Bradley. Sevier County had a runner on in each of the first two innings via a walk and a Jake Hall single, but neither got further than first base. Matthews beat out a throw at first for an infield single in the third but Dallas Gossett couldn’t bring him home with two outs. A walk drawn by Kody Paul in the fourth led to nothing again.
That set up Matthews for his second single of the game in the fifth, a hard-hit ground ball to left. He promptly stole second before taking two bases on a passed ball for the winning run.
“I rounded third and coach Taylor told me to go,” Matthews said. “I put my head down and just took off. It feels great. It’s a great thing because you know that you did your job.”
Taylor described it as a “hustle” play and exactly what the Bears needed in a game that seemed destined for extra innings. The spark Matthews provided made sure Osborne’s strong start wasn’t wasted.
“He’s done that for us before. He’ll do it for us again,” Taylor said. “Our base running’s not always been a high point for us this year. We’ve run ourselves out of some innings. But tonight it worked to our advantage. It’s a big positive for Devante.”