It wasn’t winter that was cooling off the bats in Smyrna Monday night. Pioneer pitcher Brooks Helton and Mt. Juliet hurler Grayson Cole seemed to have a chilling effect on batters.
The Bears were able to break free in the sixth, snapping a scoreless outing with two runs to down Warren County 2-0 in both team’s first game in the week-long Grand Slam Challenge going on in Rutherford County.
The Pioneers were set to hold their first game at the friendly confines of Patrick Ramsey Field, but pop-up rain made it impossible. Instead, the game was moved to Smyrna High School as both teams wanted to try to get their seasons started.
It was a pitcher’s duel, only broken up by the Bears finding a little groove in the sixth while Warren County could never string offense together – finishing with just three hits.
The lack of offense didn’t look like an issue for five innings. Helton looked ready to silence the Bears all night. Helton was in cruise control through five frames, allowing just two hits and fanning five.
Mt. Juliet finally broke through in the sixth, scoring the game’s first run on back-to-back doubles by Nelson Buckland and Dylan Kasper in the span of two pitches.
Helton tried to limit the damage, getting a fly out and strikeout to leave Kasper standing on second with two outs. Corey Settle changed it with a double to left field, ending Helton’s night.
John Garrett came in and was able to end the inning and work through a scoreless seventh, but the Pioneer bats never woke up.
Warren County had a prime chance in the sixth inning. Pinch hitter Will Cantrell drew a one-out walk, immediately giving his spot back to Ben Rivers at first base. Senior Hunter Adams followed with a single into left field, putting two on with one out.
Cole settled down with a strikeout, then forced Helton to ground into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.
Down to their last three outs, Ryland Holder started the seventh with a single for the Pioneers. After a flyout, the Bears brought in Hayden Robbins to pitch to Omari Harris, who had singled off Cole in the second inning.
Before Harris could swing the bat, Holder swiped second base on a passed ball. Harris eventually battled to a full count and was retired on a groundout that moved Holder to third.
Ty Martin followed with another grounder, this one ending the game.
Warren County had its chance to bounce back Tuesday with a road contest against LaVergne. The result was unavailable at press time.
The Pioneers are set to play Thursday at Mt. Juliet High School against Grace Christian at 6:30 p.m., weather permitting.