Crowe mows down 18 in Tigers' 4-0 win
The Pigeon Forge Tigers (17-1 overall) rebounded well from their first loss of the season Friday afternoon with a 4-0 shutout of Rabun Gap (Ga.) in the first day of play at the Demarini Classic at Farragut High School.
Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School (10-5 overall) is a private, college preparatory school in the Appalachian Mountains of northern Georgia that regularly competes in the Classic, although they were hardly ready for what they were in for against Pigeon Forge ace Wil Crowe.
Crowe was again dominent for the Orange and Black, showcasing his 90-plus miles-per-hour fastball, knee-buckling curve and confounding change-up to the bewildered Eagles in front of another crowd of MLB scouts.
The power righty struck-out a career-high 18 batters in the seven-inning game and allowed just two hits. In fact, only five balls were hit into fair territory by the Eagles hitters — the two hits, one a weak infield grounder that the batter beat out and the other a triple up the first base line, and routine grounders to short, second and first.
Despite the overwhelming performance, PF coach Mike Guinn said Rabun Gap was no team to underestimate.
“Theyr’re a very good ball club,” the coach said. “Elite players go there. Looking at their roster, eight or nine of them will go on to play college baseball. They’re a very good team.”
“He’s not your average high school pitcher,” catcher Ben Breazeale said of his battery mate. “He’s a next-level guy. (Batters) don’t handle him well. They struggle a little bit.”
While Crowe was holding the Eagles’ offense in check, the Tigers offense was doing enough to win.
In fact, they’d put up all the runs they’d need in the game’s first inning.
Scott LaFollette reached on a one-out error and was immediately scored when Breazeale, a left-handed hitting senior, blasted his third home run in two days — this one a towering flyball hit the opposite way over the left-center field wall. “Ben’s seeing it great,” Guinn said.
“He’s swinging it good, making good contact, and I’m proud of him,” Crowe, who’s played with Breazeale in summer ball for nearly a decade, added. “He’s going opposite field, teams are throwing outside to him (and he’s showing that. When they start throwing in, and it’s going to get even uglier.”
“I’m really locked in right now,” Breazeale, who has five homers on the season, said. “I’ve just really found my swing.”
The Tigers plated another run later in the inning following an error on a Koleman Roach ground ball.
The closest Rabun Gap came to scoring was in the second inning.
After a lead-off strikeout, the Eagles’ Matthew Duverge smoked a triple down the first base line, putting himself in scoring position with just one out.
But Crowe rose to the challenge.
After walking the next hitter — his only free pass issued on the day — Crowe promptly faked a pick-off to third and nailed the trailing runner at first for the second out. Moments later another strikeout ended the threat.
No one else would pass first base for the Eagles the rest of the way.
Pigeon Forge tacked on its final run in the bottom of the fifth, when sophomore Jake Griffin took a hit-by-pitch with the bases loaded to make the score 4-0.
“We had a lot of guys swinging the bat well, we were just hitting it right at people,” Guinn said. “I thought our approaches were great today. Four runs was a low output for the swings that we took.”
The victory comes on the heels of Pigeon Forge’s first loss of the season, a painful 9-8 defeat at the hands of Sequoyah.
“We had a meeting the other day when we were on the bus, just the players,” Crowe said of the aftermath of the loss.
“And we understood that we were taking teams lightly. So, as a team we had a discussion and understood that we needed to ignite the flame again, become a better team every game. We always make the reference that we’re on a train, riding a train. The train made a pit-stop, but now we’re back on it. We played good today, and I feel good about it.”