'Lander comeback shocks 'Horns'

By Wes Holtsclaw

SPORTS CORRESPONDENT

   After a rude awakening against University High on Thursday afternoon, things weren't on the upside for the Cloudland Highlander baseball team.
   At the beginning of Friday's game with the Johnson County Longhorns, it appeared as though a long day was coming, with the 'Horns took the early 6-0 lead.
   The Highlanders stayed persistent, coming back slowly, eventually tying the game at 6-6 going into the sixth inning. However, the Longhorns jumped the gun, scoring five quick runs on the 'Landers, appearing to leave no hope whatsoever.
   But as Bob Seger sang back in the day, Cloudland 'turned the page' on the Longhorns and made a comeback that no one in Roan Mountain expected. Behind the powerful hitting of Mark Byrd and Josh Johnson, and several extra bases from walks, Cloudland scored six runs to take the Longhorns 12-11.
   Johnson County came out swinging at the beginning of the game, as Cloudland placed Mark Barnett on the mound for his first appearance of the season.
   Junior Paisley opened up the game with a solo home run, to take a quick 1-0 lead. The 'Horns grabbed several good hits early as Michael Reid and Jeff Lewis got on base.
   Then the Roan was shocked again, as Chad Reece sent a rocket over the fence to add three more to the Johnson County cause.
   Adam Leonard would score from a Jon Arnold single, and Arnold scored from Paisley, as the Longhorns took a quick 6-0 lead over Cloudland.
   Things weren't on the upside early for the Cloudland bats. Johnson, Byrd and T.J. Lunsford were sit down quick, as Paisley pitched a lightning quick attack to open it up.
   Coach Jeff Bradley sent Lunsford out on the mound in the second inning, and it was a good move.
   Lunsford and the Cloudland defense slowed down the Johnson County cruise, leaving it stranded in the Doe River. Through his four and a third innings, Lunsford allowed only one hit and struck out two with no runs.
   On the other end of the spectrum, Cloudland came back slowly but surely.
   James Gardner and Dale Baker opened up the second inning with a pair of singles for Cloudland, before Clint Steiner and Jonathan Gibbs drove the two in, scoring two runs for the 'Landers.
   While the defense was taking care of things in the third inning, Cloudland scored again as Caleb Denton grabbed a base on an error from the first baseman. Gardner would plow in a double, bringing some life to the supportive Highlander fans, closing the gap at 6-3.
   The fourth inning would provide immensely for Cloudland, with Baker and Johnson grabbing bases early. Byrd then stepped up as the man, as he nailed a two-run double to close the gap at 6-5.
   Three quick outs in the fifth inning gave Cloudland a chance to take another step, but it didn't look good. After two quick outs and some massive pitching from Paisley, Barnett laid the smackdown with a solo homer, tying the game at 6-6.
   Both teams went scoreless in the sixth inning, Cloudland changed pitching as Caleb Denton stepped onto the mound, leading into the final inning.
   Johnson County took some quick bases as a pair of infield errors and a walk provided Reece, Leonard and Matt McQueen some bases. Reece and Leonard scored from the error by Gibbs, giving the 'Horns a 8-6 lead.
   Michael Reid singled in McQueen, loosening the lead. When Adam Johnson walked, it set the pace for Judd Townsend, who brought the house down with a two-run single, that gave Johnson County the 11-6 lead.
   Several folks started packing their things before the next Highlander at-bat, but they sat down quick.
   Byrd, Lunsford, and Denton were quickly put on base, as a walk on Gardner brought in Byrd. Barnett was hit by the pitcher, scoring Lunsford, and Baker sent in Gardner.
   From there, Johnson took the plate. With two outs on Cloudland, he rocked his second double for two RBIs, tying the game at 11-11.
   Nelly Fertado did a song called 'I'm like a Bird.' Well another Byrd would pull out the stroke as Mark Byrd slammed Johnson in with a single that would've left Clarence Carter in tears, as Cloudland won 12-11 in the seventh inning, ending the thriller.
   Paisley, in his seven innings, struck out 11 batters and only walked three in his compete day. Denton is credited with the win, after an follow-up to Lunsford and Barnett.