If old-school pitching duels are what you like, then Patrick Ramsey Field was not the place for you Thursday night. Warren County and Tullahoma took part in a slugfest, combining for 21 runs and 28 hits.
At the end, it came down to the Pioneers’ pitching battling out of a number of late jams to preserve an 11-10 win over the Wildcats to end a five-game losing streak.
Warren County (5-10) found itself down by as many as three runs twice in the early innings, but always came back with an answer.
By the time junior Connor Dixon stepped on the mound though, Tullahoma was threatening to take back the lead in the bottom of the seventh.
Dixon was given the chore of relieving Derek Brumley in the seventh with the bases loaded and one out with the Pioneers leading 11-9.
Coach Joey Haston’s closer looked shaky when he faced his first batter, giving up a walk to make it 11-10.
Dixon regained his composure however, striking out the next batter looking to get his team one out away from a big win.
Dixon got the final out, but not before the entire fanbase held its collective breath. Dixon’s 0-1 pitch to Justice Sheffield was hit on a line into right field. The frozen rope was in the direction of Christian Gonzalez though, who barely had to move to record the final out.
As Gonzalez snagged the ball and ran into the infield, the Pioneers stormed the mound and gathered around Dixon, who picked up a crucial save.
It was a win coach Haston was happy to see, especially since the Pioneers had came up short a number of times already in late-game situations.
“It felt good to come out on top after being so close our last few games,” said Haston.
Things didn’t look good at the start when Tullahoma scored three runs off starter David Lee in the first inning.
Gonzalez led off the bottom of the inning with a single, but the Wildcats turned a routine double play to seemingly stop the Pioneers’ rally.
Warren County got on a roll with two outs however, as Caleb Northcutt singled and Logan Walker followed it up with a ground-rule double over the right-field fence.
Ben Wilson was hit with a pitch to load the bases, putting the pressure on Dylan Barnes to come up with a hit.
Barnes not only hit, he cleared the bases with a three-run triple to tie the game at three. It was a hit coach Haston thought changed the game.
“We had a great hitting performance and Dylan really set the tone with his bases-loaded triple,” said Haston.
Lee ran into more trouble in the second, giving up three runs before ultimately giving way to Brumley. In his first extensive action of the season, Brumley pitched 4 2/3 innings to pick up his first win in nearly two years.
Warren County didn’t let Tullahoma’s 6-3 lead last long. The Pioneers plated four runs in the bottom of the second, highlighted by RBI singles by Gonzalez and Northcutt.
Tullahoma wouldn’t quit though. The Wildcats answered with two runs in the top of the third to take a 8-7 lead.
The Pioneers had the answer again though, as Gonzalez, Walker and Garrison Holmes all had RBI hits to give Warren County the lead for good at 10-8.
After Tullahoma closed the gap to one with a run in the fourth, Collin Hutchins came up with a big insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when he singled in Barnes, who began the inning with a double.
The run would end up being the difference as Tullahoma scored one run in the seventh off four Pioneer walks, but couldn’t get the equalizer.
The nerve-racking save for Dixon was just part of what Haston thought was an excellent outing for his bullpen.
“We got a great relief work from Derek and Connor,” said Haston.
Gonzalez led all Pioneer hitter with three hits, along with driving in two runs. Barnes had two hits and three RBIs.
The Pioneers were scheduled to keep up their busy weekend with a doubleheader against Livingston Academy yesterday but the games were rained out.
Warren County will get back in the swing of things next weekend when they take part in the Tullahoma Tournament. Game times have yet to be announced.