'Dogs rally in seventh to capsize EHS

By Ivan Sanders
STAR CORRESPONDENT

   Hampton head coach Scotty Bunton had wondered if his team was ever going to catch a break in their favor after losing so many games by freak plays and unlucky turn of events.
   The Bulldogs finally were able to capitalize as they rallied from a 4-3 deficit in their last at-bat to take a 6-4 finale over the Elizabethton Cyclones at Joe O'Brien Field on Friday evening.
   "This is a hard-luck bunch of kids that have all the ability to win, it's just that we couldn't ever get any calls to go our way or have stupid plays, like having the ball hitting a bag, to let three games slip out of our hands," said a smiling Bunton after the game.
   "I am tickled for the kids and I just hope this helps us pick up momentum for our remaining games and as we head into the district tournament."
   Hampton wasted little time getting on the scoreboard, recording two runs in the top of the first inning as Kevin Harrison drove in pitcher Eric Swain with a single and senior shortstop Josh Moss raced home on a passed ball to provide the 'Dogs with an early edge.
   Swain managed to keep the Cyclones off stride through the first two innings of play. Meanwhile, Cyclone starting pitcher Mitchell Blevins was experiencing one of his best outings of the season after giving up the two early runs by retiring Hampton in order in innings two and three.
   Elizabethton finally put together one of its best innings in awhile as Kelly Adkins and Nathan Bishop reaching on singles. B.J. Miller laced a third consecutive single to score Adkins.
   Cyclone second baseman Ricky Garrison then executed a perfect squeeze bunt to score Bishop to even the game at 2-2. EHS third baseman Travis Bowers then tore into a Swain offering to score Miller for a 3-2 Cyclone advantage.
   Hampton stole a run in the top of the fourth as Robby England raced home when the Cyclones attempted to catch Michael McCall stealing for the third out. Garrison made the decision to come home with the late throw as England eluded the tag of Bishop to knot the score at 3-3.
   Swain, who came out late to begin the season, was able to settle into a groove with a little help from his defense.
   The only mounted threat for the Cyclones in the middle innings came in the fifth inning, where Bishop and Miller reached safely with no outs, only to see Swain and the 'Dogs turn ferocious to get the next three Cyclones in order and prevent any damage.
   "I just came out to throw strikes and we got the hits when we needed to against a very good Elizabethton ball team," stated Swain. "Adam (Miller) got the big double and I think this will help to build momentum as we face Volunteer and then carry over into the district tournament."
   Elizabethton looked to set itself up for the win in the bottom of the sixth as Adam Greenlee was pegged by a Swain offering and Nat Treadway tattooed a double to score Greenlee, who had swiped second on an earlier pitch.
   Miller, who had replaced Blevins in the fifth on the mound for EHS, ran into trouble in the 'Dogs portion of the seventh inning as Adam Miller drove a Miller offering deep to the left field wall for a double.
   Swain walked and Cyclone coach Steve McKinney called upon closer Wes Greer to put out the fire.
   Justin Waycaster greeted Greer with a hard single to drive in Miller. Back-to-back errors by the Cyclones allowed Swain and Waycaster to work their way around the basepath to score and put the 'Dogs up 6-4.
   Elizabethton managed walks by Bowers and Michael Porter in the seventh, but Swain and his defensive battery were determined to take the win by throwing dirt on the Cyclones flicker of hope.
   "Whenever you play one of the teams in the county, they are going to play you tough and that's what I told the guys," stated McKinney. "If you remember last year though, you will remember that Hampton beat us here and then we made it to the regional championship, so we are going to look at it like we are 0-0 and start fresh and see what happens."
   Elizabethton can only hope to finish at 8-6 in the conference, but must beat Johnson County at Mountain City and Unicoi at home to do so with a week left in the regular season.