Cougars claw Cyclones, 7-2

By Ivan Sanders

STAR CORRESPONDENT

   When the season began, Elizabethton's baseball team traveled to Sullivan Central and took a key conference win that began a string of five straight conference wins for the Cyclones. Boy, how things have changed since those first few ballgames.
   Central paid a visit to Joe O'Brien Field on Thursday night and rallied from a 2-2 tie in the sixth inning to take a 7-2 Watauga Conference win over the reeling Cyclones to keep the Cougars in the hunt for the regular season title after running their record to 21-6 overall and 8-2 in conference play.
   "Our guys got a taste of success last season and they brought that along with some valuable experience into this season," said an elated Cougar coach Brandon Krantz. "This team is versatile and they can either hit for the double to win a game or they can play small ball like we did tonight in laying down those bunts."
   Pitching was outstanding from both sides of the field as the Cyclone's Travis Bowers (0-3) pitched a magnificent game only to see the defense fall apart behind him in booting the ball around five times on what appeared to be sure outs.
   Meanwhile, Eric Allen of Central was just as sharp, as the young man gave up only two hits and two earned runs in keeping the Cougars in the contest until they could manufacture the runs needed to take the win. The Cyclones two hits came of the bats of Michael Porter (1 RBI) and Nat Treadway.
   "We are not going to win a game if we don't hit the ball and I just don't know what else to do to get these kids hitting," said an understandable distraught Cyclone skipper Steve McKinney. "We hit everyday and I think these guys just go up there and put too much pressure on themselves to hit the ball. We're making contact, it's just going right to someone."
   The Cougars found a weakness early as they played the small ball to perfection, laying down three consecutive bunts for hits in the top of the fourth. Shane Jobe (3 RBI's) made the best of his night from the designated hitter slot as he laced a double to the left field wall to score Daniel Skelton and Josh O'Dell, who executed perfect bunts to reach.
   In the sixth inning, the Cougars used a combination of bunts and Cyclone errors to push across four runs to take a comfortable 6-2 edge going into the bottom of the inning. Central went on to score another run in the top of the seventh as Skelton singled and worked his way to third from where he scored on a passed ball.
   Bowers collected an RBI for the Cyclones on a ground out to short in the first inning that scored B.J. Miller, who reached via a base on balls for EHS other earned run. Central's Skelton was 3 for 4 on the night who along with teammate O'Dell at a 2 for 4 clip showed the way in Central's eight hit attack.
   Elizabethton changed up their schedule to accommodate their remaining conference schedule, as the Cyclones will entertain Hampton today at 6 PM at Joe O'Brien while Central will host the Johnson County Longhorns for a double-header beginning at 5 PM.