Farragut blocks Bears’ path to state
Early on in the Sevier County Smoky Bears sectional matchup with Farragut, it looked as though the Purple and White had found the secret formula to knock the Admirals off of the TSSAA State Tournament path.
The Bears (32-10 overall) seemingly had the home team on the ropes, as they took a 5-2 lead in the top of the third inning and had knocked out Farragut’s much-ballyhooed ace Kyle Serrano.
But the Admirals (32-8 overall) showed why they’re a perennial lock for the state championships in Murfreesboro, rallying with six unanswered runs in the game’s final four innings to end the season for the upstart Bears 8-5. Sevier County scored a run in the game’s first inning against Serrano, who walked two batters and hit another to load the bases just moments before walking senior Dylan Ford for the game’s first run.
Serrano was still wild in the third, walking the bases loaded again before sophomore Ivan Silva lined a two-run single to center to put the Bears up 3-2.
Farragut then went to reliever Patrick Raby, who came in and walked the next two SCHS hitters, Dillon Cate and Dallas Gossett, to bring in another run.
Sophomore Nick Osborne, who started the game on the mound for the Bears, then helped himself with a run-scoring single to make it 5-2 before Farragut ending the half-inning.
But Sevier County stranded a combined seven runners in the first three innings and had runners gunned out at home and at third.
“I felt like we missed our chances early,” SC coach Casey Taylor said. “And when you’re playing a team of this caliber, you’ve got to take advantage of all of your chances.” The Bears ran into trouble in the bottom of the fourth.
A lead-off single, followed by two walks, loaded the bases for the Admirals with no outs. After back-to-back errors at shortstop and third base, the lead was down to one — 5-4 — and the bases were still juiced. Back-to-back sacrifice flies, with another error in between, netted two more runs for Farragut to move the home team ahead 6-5.
“We had some defenders that could have made some plays on balls, and against teams of this caliber you’ve got to make the plays,” Taylor said.
In the meantime a small but powerful storm cell moved into the area and unleashed torrential rains and lighting on the ball park. With a runner at second and two out, the game was delayed.
When things picked up again after 9 p.m., the Bears had to go with senior Jeff Henry on the mound. Henry was coming off of seven innings Wednesday in Kingsport, but with ace Dillon Cate out with a sore arm, SCHS had no other choice. Henry got out of the fourth without allowing another run, but the damage had already been done. SCHS wouldn’t score again on Raby. In fact, just one Bears player would reach base in the final three innings against the Farragut reliever.
The Admirals tacked on two runs in the bottom of the sixth on a two-run double to make the final 8-5 score. Despite the loss, Taylor was not in the dumps after the game.
“It’s hard to hang your head when you’re a predicted four or five-seed in the district and weren’t really expected to advance this far,” the first-year coach said. “We went through a lot of adversity (this season), and we just weren’t able to get over this hump.”
Notes: Sevier County ace pitcher Dillon Cate, who pitched Monday at Science Hill, wasn’t able to pitch against Farragut.
“We knew there was (a problem) there (coming into the game),” Taylor said. “That’s why we pulled him at Science Hill. It doesn’t bother me a bit to get beat if it keeps him healthy.
“What I’m afraid of is the worst-case scenario. He’s tight in his elbow, he tight right up the forearm. It could be something severe and we didn’t want to take any risks.
“People are going to look at this game and say what if (Cate had pitched)? But I’ll be honest with you, I think Cate keeps them in check,” Taylor said.
“I think we’re going to the state tournament if he rolls out (there), but we’re not going to take that chance with him.”