What a difference a day made for the Warren County High School baseball team. A day after blowing a late lead against the Cumberland County Jets, the Pioneers returned home Tuesday ready to pick up a district win.
Warren County saw Cumberland County make a late rally to tie the game, but the Pioneers put up a run in the sixth inning and Micah McColloch finished off the Jets in the seventh to help Warren County pick up a 2-1 win, its first in District 6-AAA this season.
McColloch did something Tuesday his teammate Caleb Underhill couldn’t quite do a day before. McColloch retired the side in the seventh inning to wrap up a complete-game, four-hit gem on the mound.
The last inning wasn’t without its nervous moments however. After Warren County matched Cumberland County’s run in the top of the sixth with on its own in the bottom of the inning, it was up to McColloch to protect the one-run lead.
McColloch was able to get the first two outs, but gave up a single to give the Jets a glimmer of hope. The small window looked to be a gaping hole when John Bilbrey blasted a double down the left-field line.
Collin Hutchins made a spectacular play though, diving in front of the ball and keeping it from rolling to the fence. Hutchins popped up and hit Dylan Barnes with a frozen rope, causing Cumberland County’s coach to hold his runners at second and third.
McColloch went back to work knowing a base hit could cost the Pioneers another win. The junior captain wasn’t letting the Jets come back this time, as McColloch got the Jets clean-up batter to pop up to Pioneer third baseman Caleb Northcutt to end the game.
Coach Joey Haston knew how important a win was for the psyche of his team. After letting a four-run lead slip away in the bottom of the seventh in Cumberland County Monday, Tuesday’s win at Patrick Ramsey Field was pivotal.
“Tuesday was a huge win for us, especially to bounce back after Monday night’s game,” said Haston. “Our team captain went out there on the mound and got the job done.”
McColloch was backed up with runs in the first and sixth innings. The opening-inning run came when Christian Gonzalez led off with a single and the Pioneers brought him around with small ball.
Gonzalez swiped second base on a passed ball, then was brought around to third when Dylan Barnes laid down a sacrifice bunt. Gonzalez would score on a grounder by Northcutt to the left side of the infield, one that was bobbled by the second baseman.
The Pioneers small-ball gimmick was back in full force in the sixth. After Cumberland County tied the game in the top of the inning on an error, it was an error by the Jets that would plate the Pioneers winning run.
Logan Walker began the inning by reaching base on a walk, then stole second. Once again, the Pioneers would move a runner within 90 feet with a sacrifice bunt. Ben Wilson laid down the bunt, then was followed by a walk to Alex Hillis.
With runners on first and third, coach Haston decided to use Hillis as a decoy to try to get a run. Hillis took a huge lead at first, then took off before the pitch was even thrown. The Jets pitcher stepped off the mound, and tried to catch Hillis in a run down.
As Hillis drew the attention of the Jets, Walker began to creep toward home. When the ball was thrown to second, Walker bolted home. Walker slid under a tag, giving the Pioneers just enough runs for McColloch to take them the rest of the way.
McColloch finished with four strikeouts and scattered four hits through seven innings. It was the first victory for the junior this season.
The Pioneers were scheduled to play Sequatchie County last night, but the game was rained out. Warren County’s game against Grundy County today, which is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m., was still scheduled to be played at press time. The game time was subject to change depending on weather conditions, as coach Haston hinted the game could be played at night if field conditions improved throughout the day.