SETH — No. 4 seed Tug Valley kept their postseason hopes alive on Thursday night as they traveled to play No. 3 seed Sherman at the Joe Tagliente Field of Dreams and the Panthers eliminated the Tide by a final score of 8-7.
“I’m really proud of these kids, we jumped all over them early today,” Tug coach Teddy Hall said. “Our pitching has been good. Our kids have been executing and our bats are still coming. We get to live and fight another day.”
With the win the Panthers advance to within one game of the Class A Region IV Section I Championship game as they will travel to play at No. 2 seed Man on Friday at 6:30 p.m. with the winner set to move on and plat at top-seed Buffalo on Saturday.
Tug Valley came out swinging against the Tide as they erupted for four runs in the top of the first inning against Sherman starter Logan Baldwin.
Tug scored the first run after a throwing error on a Conner Lackey single and then Elijah Fluty made it a 2-0 game with an RBI single into center. Zack Hall and Austin Smith followed that up with back-to-back RBI doubles to left to chase Baldwin from the game and give them a 4-0 lead.
“Anytime you can get momentum early in the game, these kids confidence goes a lot higher,” Hall said. “Then they play with a lot more energy, a lot more teamwork, a lot more spirit, and more fire.”
The score stayed the same until the home half of the third when the Tide answered with a four-run inning of their own to tie the game up.
Luke Tagliente’s fielder’s choice brought in the first run of the frame and then an RBI single from Baldwin and a Tug Valley error made it a 4-3 game. The then Tide knotted it up at four as Trey Lester scurried home to score on another Panther miscue.
The Panthers immediately responded in the ensuing top of the fourth however as Zack Hall and Austin Smith started the inning off with back-to-back doubles once again to make it a 5-4 game.
Later in the inning Smith sped home on a wild pitch and then two more runs came in a few batters later when Brayden Dotson grounded into a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded, but the Tide made an error trying to turn a double play, and Tug took an 8-4 lead.
“That shows the confidence this team is getting, to come out and answer like that after they tied it up,” coach Hall said. “We’re getting better every day and playing our best baseball at the right time. ...The last two years we have come over here in this exact game and they eliminated us. I’m glad we came over here today and got the job done.”
The Tide wouldn’t go away quietly however as in the bottom of the fifth Brayden Hamrick doubled and then came home to score on an RBI knock from Tagliente to make it 8-5.
Tagliente stole second base, went to third on a wild pitch, and then came home to make it an 8-6 game after a throwing error by Tug trying to pick him off at third.
Lester advanced to third on the same error and then he came home on a sacrifice fly by Baldwin to make it a one run game at 8-7.
In the home half of the sixth inning Tug coach Teddy Hall had to go to his pen as he called in Austin Smith to relieve starter Dakota Ooten. Sherman loaded the bases against Smith but he struck out Tagliente swinging to end the inning and leave all three runners stranded.
In the home half of the seventh Baldwin singled again to put the tying run on base but Smith got Jared Butcher on strikes and then Avery Skeens grounded out to shortstop to end the game.
“Tug Valley played a good game, they threw strikes and scored runs,” Sherman coach Jeremiah Pettry said. “They put the ball in play and done what they were supposed to do. I can’t really complain about it, it was a good game.”
Ooten got the win on the mound for the Panthers as he went five plus innings and gave up seven runs, six earned, on six hits with four strikeouts and three walks.
Smith pitched the final two innings of the game to pick up the save as he struck out four batters while allowing no runs on one hit and one walk.
‘Dakota grinded for us today, he went as long as he could for us,” Hall said. “We were wanting to try and save Austin Smith for tomorrow, but it didn’t work out that way, you’ve got to win today before you can worry about tomorrow. So, Austin came in and did a fantastic job those last couple innings. He threw strikes and the defense played well.”
Butcher was given the loss for the Tide in his final career game as he went 6.1 innings in relief and allowed four runs, three earned, on three hits while striking out eight batters and walking five. Baldwin was tagged for four runs on five hits in his 0.2 innings of work on the mound.
Austin Smith also led Tug at the plate as he was 3-4 with two doubles and a pair of RBI. Zack Hall also had two doubles, knocked in a run, and scored a pair while Brayden Dotson singled and knocked in a pair and Fluty had the RBI single. Lackey also added a single for Tug Valley.
Hamrick and Baldwin led Sherman with two hits each while Baldwin drove in two runs. Tagliente also drove in a pair of runs and had a single while Butcher and Bruce Mills also singled.
“We started four freshman and a sophomore, so we are real young,” Pettry said. “We are getting a few players from middle school. So the future is bright.”
Sherman had the play over half of the game without leading hitter and infielder AJ Skeens as he had to leave during the third inning to go to the Class A Regional Track and Field competition.
“AJ went to run in the regionals for track,” Pettry said. “He’s our top hitter, was batting .400. ... He stayed until the very last minute for us. “
Skeens, who is signed with Concord for Track and Field and Cross Country, was set to run in the 800M and the 1600M.
Sherman saw their season come to an end with a 10-15 record while Tug Valley improved their record to 10-17.
Score by Innings
TVHS: 4 0 0 4 0 0 0 — 8 8 3
SHS: 0 0 4 0 3 0 0 — 7 7 2