The Pioneer baseball team played with fire for two straight games and on Monday night they got burned.
Warren County (2-5) once again gave up four runs in the seventh inning, and the Cumberland County Jets capitalized to defeat the Pioneers 5-4 in eight innings.
Last Saturday, Warren County led Shelbyville 8-4 entering the seventh inning before ultimately winning in the final at-bat 9-8. On Monday in Crossville, the lead was 4-0 entering the bottom of the seventh.
The Pioneers looked poised to run their winning streak to three games, but the Jets’ bats finally figured out starter Caleb Underhill and closer Dylan Barnes.
Underhill, who had allowed two hits in the first six innings, gave up a lead-off double. Then, after a groundout, a single put the first Cumberland County run on the board.
Coach Joey Haston decided to make a move to the bullpen, bringing in Barnes, who had closed out the Pioneers’ win over Shelbyville at Patrick Ramsey Field.
Barnes gave up a single to the first batter, putting two men on. The sophomore followed it up with a strikeout, putting Warren County one out away from a win.
The Jets weren’t ready to quit though, as the next batter delivered a two-run double to make it 4-3. Barnes got ahead of the next batter 0-2, but a single into right field tied the game before Barnes could retire the side.
When the Pioneers returned to the plate to begin the eighth inning, coach Haston saw a deflated team. After a scoreless top of the eighth, Derek Brumley stepped on the mound to try to give Warren County another chance to hit.
Brumley retired the first batter, but gave up another double to the Jets. The next batter sent a screamer into left field and Collin Hutchins couldn’t make a play on the ball. The single brought the winning run across the plate and ended the Pioneers’ chances of picking up their first District 6-AAA win.
Coach Haston had trouble shaking off the loss, as did senior starter Underhill. After hitting the first batter, Underhill retired 11 straight batters. It was a pitching performance Haston hated to see wasted.
“This was a tough loss for anybody, but I felt the worst for Caleb,” said Haston. “He pitched so well, but we couldn’t come up with the win for him.”
Underhill dominated the Jets’ bats for six innings. After a rough relief appearance in the Pioneers’ opening game, Underhill hadn’t given up a run in nine-straight innings before Cumberland County plated a run in the seventh against the senior.
The Pioneer bats didn’t exactly light it up against their District 6-AAA opponent, but a big third inning had given Warren County a cushion.
Senior Caleb Northcutt led off the third with a single, improving his batting average to over .500. He was brought to third when Ben Wilson grounded into a fielder’s choice to shortstop following an error to let Garrison Holmes on.
With Northcutt on third and Wilson on first, Alex Hillis doubled into the left-field gap. Hutchins came up after Hillis with two runners in scoring position.
Hutchins came up with what coach Haston called “the perfect swinging bunt,” rolling the ball down the first-base line. Cumberland County’s pitcher tried to make a play, but his throw to first sailed into right field. Wilson and Hillis both scored, giving Warren County a 3-0 lead.
Hutchins found himself back in the middle of the Pioneers scoring in the seventh. Hutchins reached base with a one-out single, then was scored on a two-out single by senior captain Christian Gonzalez.
The late-inning run looked like the perfect insurance for Underhill going into the final at-bat for the Jets, but unfortunately the Pioneers lost a four-run lead in the seventh inning for the second-straight game.
The Pioneers loss dropped the team to 0-3 in district play. Warren County returned to Patrick Ramsey Field last night to play host to the Cumberland County Jets. The final score was unavailable at press time.
Warren County hits the road tomorrow for a game in Sequatchie County. The first pitch is scheduled to be thrown at 5 p.m.
The Pioneers will play their only day game of the season Friday. Warren County battles Grundy County at Patrick Ramsey Field beginning at 1 p.m.