Cyclones upend 'Landers

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR STAFF
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   Elizabethton remained calm and silent in the early going, but once the Cyclones started rolling, it became more devastating than what Cloudland had been prepared for.
   After going scoreless in the first three innings, the Cyclones exploded in the top of the fourth and fifth innings to come away with a 9-2 victory.
   At the mound for Elizabethton was all-conference star Travis Bowers, who connected on a total of 13 strikeouts, allowing just three hits with no earned runs.
   "He does a great job throwing strike, and it was his time to throw and he did a good job at it," said Elizabethton coach Steve McKinney. "I was proud of him."
   Cloudland didn't manage a hit until the bottom of the fourth, when Dakota Benfield hit a single in shallow center field.
   The Highlanders played tough through the first three frames, after retiring all nine batters.
   "Their pitcher did a good job at the first. He had us off stride, and it took us a while to get our bats going," said McKinney. "Finally we got them going, and right now we're just hunting and pecking. We've got a lot of people playing, and I'm just looking for people to step up.
   "The thing about tournaments is when you've played everybody, and then it's nitty gritty time -- you put your best out there."
   Elizabethton took the momentum in the top of the fourth, when back-to-back hits from Ricky Garrison and Bowers position runners on second and third base.
   "We came in and weren't used to seeing that kind of pitching, and it took us a little while to adapt," said Garrison. "Getting in the cage has really helped us and getting a lot of swings."
   A sacrifice bunt by Kelly Adkins enabled Garrison to score after the 'Landers had trouble fielding the ball.
   The Cyclones had bases loaded after a base hit from Ryan Kennedy, but couldn't quite come away with any more runs.
   Elizabethton overcame the frustration in the fifth frame, as it acquired four hits along with scoring five runs.
   "We hit the ball well and that was a big key, but their kid had a good little breaker and threw the ball well to keep us off stride," said McKinney.
   A shot from Travis Bowers to left field brought home Mitchell Blevins and Nathan Bishop, and then a hit batter with bases loaded drove in Garrison.
   "I've got to give it all to my teammates -- they got on base, and they give me good pitches to hit," said Bowers. "We've looked pretty good so far, because basically we haven't been making errors or walking people, and we're just doing little things."
   Charles Peters cleaned up the frame by smacking a single, which brought Bowers and Adkins around to the plate.
   The Cyclones added on to their 6-0 advantage in the top of the sixth, when a triple to center field from Bowers brought home Garrison.
   "Their experience took over, but I thought we played a good game out in the field," said Cloudland coach Robbie Turbyfill. "Clint Steiner, I thought pitched a great game and you couldn't have asked for any better. He kept it around the plate and we stayed in the game for three innings, before they finally took over."
   Bowers finished the evening by going 3-for-4 from the plate with 3 RBIs, while Garrison hit 3-for-5 with three runs scoring.
   "We didn't play our best, but we got the W," said Garrison. "It feels great and I don't know if we've ever started out 2-0. We got 'er done."
   Elizabethton built a 9-0 advantage after J.C. Atkinson nailed a base hit to score Bowers and Tyler Shaw.
   Cloudland finally got on the board in the bottom of the sixth, when Michael Lunsford reached base off an error and Mark Byrd connected on a double to deep center field.
   "The pitcher they had was as good as we've saw, and hopefully by playing these good teams, it will make us better come tournament time," said Turbyfill. "Playing these tough teams and facing good pitching is what we want to do."
   Lunsford crossed the plate after a throw from the outfield to home sailed off the mark.
   The 'Landers rallied to score another run in the final frame. Dave Holden made it to first base off another Cyclone error, then Clint Steiner came up to bat and sent a shot to center field, which brought-in Holden.
   "I think I got a little tired in the last few innings, but basically I didn't walk anybody and we played excellent defense tonight, so I've got to give it to them," said Bowers.
   Elizabethton will play a doubleheader tomorrow, where it will face Avery County at 6 p.m. and Sullivan Central in a non-conference game at 8 p.m.
   Cloudland travels to Happy Valley, where it will be faced with another stiff opponent in the Warriors.
   "We missed a few cuts and watching the third strike hurt us, but I think missing the cuts this early in the season -- we'll have that corrected come tournament time," said Turbyfill. "We'll play tomorrow at Happy Valley at four o'clock, so we'll try to come out and do the best we can."
   Happy Valley 17
   Avery County 0
   The Warriors had little resistance against Avery County on Thursday, as they put away the contest after five innings with a 17-0 victory.
   Ryan Toney headed the mound for the Warriors through the first four frames, as he surrendered just one hit on the afternoon while totailng seven strikeouts.
   Happy Valley led off with a double from Ryan Garland and a triple from Todd Caldwell.
   Tim Whaley followed by blasting a home run in the first inning to put Happy Valley ahead 3-0.
   A shot from Jordy Harrison in the bottom of the second drove home Whaley and Toney to extend the lead to seven runs.
   Caldwell struck again from the plate in the third frame to drive home two more runs with Garland and Rickey Morgan crossing the plate.
   Happy Valley exploded during the fourth inning to rack up a total of eight runs, while Whaley came in during the final frame to relieve Toney at the mound.
   The standout sophomore class of Garland, Morgan, and Caldwell all finished 3-for-5 for the Warriors, who totaled 16 hits in the game.
   Happy Valley will meet Cloudland next at 4 p.m. today at Gouge-Cannon Park.