West wins epic finale over Bears
The IMAC Championship baseball game was an epic, back-and-forth, extra-innings battle that saw the homestanding Sevier County Smoky Bears and Morristown West Trojans going toe-to-toe for 31⁄2 hours of high intensity hardball at Cliff Davis Field.
But in the end, it wasn’t the Bears’ day.
The Trojans earned the 8-7 victory over the Purple and White, capitalizing on errors and wild pitches to overcome a 6-1 deficit to win 8-7 in 10 innings.
“You’re not going to play perfect,” SCHS first-year coach Casey Taylor said after the game. “We’re going to take shots, and they’re going to take shots — but it’s a matter of whether or not you can respond. There’s one side of it that says we let one get away, but then the other side of it says there’s two good baseball teams that have played three times and had three one-run ballgames.”
The Bears led 3-1 early, courtesy of RBI singles from Alan Silva and Garrett Gay and a run on an errant Trojans’ throw following a sac bunt.
Nick Osborne then clubbed his second three-run homer in two days in the bottom of the fifth, pushing the lead to 6-1.
With Osborne cruising on the mound, it looked like the Bears were a shoe-in for the title, but West scored five runs in the top of the sixth to knot the game at 6-6.
After back-to-back one-out hits put runners at second and third, Chaz Hadden plated the Trojans’ first run of the frame on a sacrifice fly.
An error on a grounder to second a moment later cut the Bears lead to 6-3. Back-to-back singles added another run, and the Trojans had two on and two out when Taylor went to the Smoky Bears’ bullpen.
Second baseman Dylan Ford took over on the mound and, on cue, induced a ground ball that was played perfectly by Dillon Cate at third. But Cate’s throw to first sailed wide, and two runs came in to tie the game at 6-6.
The Bears had a chance to put it away in the seventh, loading the bases with no outs, but the Trojans got three-straight groundouts to end the threat.
West went ahead in the top of the eighth, but this time the Bears answered, as catcher Devante Matthews walked, stole second and eventually came around to score following a pair of wild pitches.
Neither team could manage a base-runner in the ninth, but in the 10th the Trojans would get the winning run.
With Matthews on the mound for the Bears, Austin Bishop launched a lead-off double for the visitors and was quickly moved to third on a sacrifice bunt.
After a strikeout, Bishop scored on a two-out wild pitch, giving his team the go-ahead run.
The Bears couldn’t manage another run, and the Trojans celebrated their first district title since 2009.
Sevier County will still advance to the region tournament, where they’ll travel to face the District 1-AAA champion on Monday night.
Staff ace Dillon Cate should be ready for the contest.
“He’s a little bit tender today, a little bit stiff,” Taylor said. “He probably could have gone for two dozen, maybe 30 pitches (in relief), but we’re not going to put him in that situation.
“He’s done enough for us. He’s got us this far. We want to have him ready for Monday and see what happens.”
“At the end of the day, it was a great game, a great finals. And hopefully we’ll see them again on Wednesday if everything shakes out (in the first round of the region tournament).”