Longhorns work past EHS in eight innings

By Marvin Birchfield

   While the Cyclones were expecting to take care of business with Johnson County, it was the Longhorns who surprised Elizabethton in a 5-2 Watauga Conference final on Thursday afternoon at O'Brien Field.
   The Longhorns came away with three runs in the top of the eighth, after Elizabethton had rallied in the bottom of the seventh to force the game into an extra frame.
   "I thought we really came through in the clutch with two outs especially, and we really hit the ball well for our outs were well hit too," said Johnson County coach Pete Pavusek. "I'm really impressed with the way we're swinging the bats, and the way our hitting instructor, Eric Crabtree, has them working and hitting."
   Four hits from Johnson County and an error from the Cyclones proved to be the difference in the clutch part of the contest.
   The 'Horns were threatening from the start, when Nathan Paisley knocked a double to centerfield and Zak Reece hit a single in right.
   "Our hitting we started out real slow, especially against Erwin and Sullivan Central -- in those two games we only had two hits," said Pavusek. "I don't know if it was first-game jitters or just getting out of the gate, but I think we've figured out what we're doing. We're real patient and selective now."
   The Cyclones avoided a run from scoring after a fly-out to the second-baseman, Ricky Garrison, made the third out.
   Elizabethton was unable to make anything happen in the bottom of the second after Adam Grindstaff led off with a base hit to left field.
   "We hit the ball and made plays out in the field -- I think we only had two errors," said Grindstaff. "Hopefully we can get this one off our shoulders and come back to win the next one."
   Johnson County finally capitalized in the fourth frame, when Bryan Bauguess smacked a hit down the right-field line to drive home Jeffrey Brinker, who had reached base on a single to center field.
   "I've been down lately because I had to have surgery done on my eye, and when the sun goes down it seems like I can hit a lot better," said Brinker. "I had been striking out most of the time, but I think I'm playing better now."
   Grindstaff came back for Elizabethton with a solo home run over the left-field wall to tie the contest at 1-1 in the bottom of the fourth.
   "Home runs are a mistake -- you're getting up under the ball, so we need to start hitting line-drives," said Grindstaff. "Everybody played well, but they were just making great defensive plays and there's nothing you can do about that."
   The game didn't stay tied long for during the next frames, as a double to deep centerfield by Chris McElyea set up the 'Horns for the go-ahead run.
   A pop-up from Paisley dropped into the glove and bounced back out, as an error from the second-baseman allowed McElyea to score.
   A catch from the Cyclone rightfielder Charles Peters resulted in a double-play, as he made the grab and threw to first base to get the tag on the base runner in the sixth frame.
   It looked like the evening was coming to an end for Elizabethton in its last attempt at bat, but a shot from J.C. Atkinson to the left field gave the Cyclones still some hope.
   "Mountain City did what they had too to win, and we hit it, but we just hit it at people," said Elizabethton coach Steve McKinney. "Our pitcher throws a good game, but we just didn't give him enough runs."
   A rip up the middle from Nathan Bishop scored Atkinson, and another hit from Bowers had runners on first and second-base for Elizabethton.
   "It's 2-1 and we tie it up in the seventh, but you've got to tip your hat to them -- they did a great job and made the plays when they had to and we didn't," said McKinney. "Their kid pitched well, but we hit him, and just hit it right at them.
   "You hit it hard and some days it goes right at them, and then sometimes you hit little bloopers and it goes in, so you don't ever know what's going to happen."
   The Horns' got the final out on a pop-up to the first-baseman, which forced the extra inning.
   Both teams refused to bring in a relief pitcher, as Mitchell Blevins pitched all eight innings for Elizabethton, while Michael Davis did the same for Johnson County.
   "I was getting real tired toward the end and I wanted to go out and get the win in the seventh inning, but then they scored," said Davis. "Then we came out and scored three runs, so I came back out and was really pumped up with the three-run lead.
   "I was really confident with the pitch calling and my pitching. The calls from the coaches were great in the eighth inning."
   A double to centerfield from Matt Peters drove in the game-winning run, with Paisley crossing the plate.
   Johnson County added two more runs off a shot from Brinker to bring home Peters, while Gary Evans smacked a hit to score Brinker.
   The 'Horns collected a total of 12 hits, as Brinker finished the night going 3-for-4 at the plate, while Paisley and Bauguess were both 2-for-4.
   "It was a close ball game -- they had good pitching and fielding," said Brinker. "We've really been coming out to play this year, and it's my first year playing in high school, but since I've been here I love it."