Cyclones stun Cougars

By Ivan Sanders
STAR CORRESPONDENT
isanders@starhq.com

   Ol' Mo was at Hunter-Wright Stadium on Saturday in the District 1-AA baseball game between Elizabethton and Central.
   He visited the Central side for the first portion of the game and went to the Cyclone dugout when it counted the most as (Mo)mentum swung the advantage over to Elizabethton in the end.
   The Cyclones, once down 5-0, rallied in the last three innings to mark the first upset of the tournament as they defeated second-seeded Central by the score of 8-5 to send the Cougars back to the confines of the Cougar Den to dream of what could have been.
   "It's like I've told these kids all year -- to never give up," stated a teary-eyed head Cyclone coach Steve McKinney. "Today they didn't and good things happened for us."
   Central appeared to be on cruise control early as the Cougars built a 5-0 lead in the first three innings behind some consistent offense at the dish. The Cougars used four hits and three errors to record one in the first, one in the second, and three in the third.
   Elizabethton decided that this day would not be the one that was going to close out its season as the Cyclones grabbed Ol' Mo by the neck and drug him to their side.
   The Cyclones recouped two of the runs in the third inning as Travis Bowers led off with a single and advanced as designated hitter Chris Hurt also picked up a single. Michael Porter then tore into a Dustin Cox offering to score both runners and cut the lead for Central to three, 5-2.
   Cyclone pitcher Joseph Vines decided that enough was enough as the junior hurler settled down in the top of the fourth as he allowed his counterpart Cox a single and then caged the rest of the Cougars behind stellar play from the Cyclone defense, including a diving stab by B.J. Miller at second for one of the outs.
   "They hit off me early in the game and I needed to regroup," said Vines of his performance. "I said to myself that this wasn't going to happen anymore and the guys got behind me and we played as a team to come back and win."
   Indeed, the defense showed up huge for the Cyclones as they turned three double plays on the day to back the seven-hit pitching of Vines. When the defense shows up, then the offense is sure to follow as it did for EHS.
   Elizabethton added another two spot in the fifth inning. Jeremy Hodge reached on an error by the Cougar second baseman. After the Cougars picked up the second out of the inning on a fly out by B.J. Miller, Bowers ripped his second hit of the contest to plate Hodge.
   Justin Williams reached on an error by Central's third baseman to advance Bowers to second. Hurt followed with a single to allow Bowers to cross the dish all the way from second as the Cyclones edged ever closer by narrowing the gap to one, 5-4.
   Pumped by adrenaline, the Cyclone defense again cornered the Cougars as they recorded a one-two-three fifth frame.
   EHS was looking to continue with the hot play and did so in the top of the sixth as the Cyclones tallied three runs to take the lead for the first time on the day. Catcher Jordan Bray smoked a single with Adam Greenlee taking over as a courtesy runner.
   Hodge notched a single to place runners at first and second. Miller cane to the plate and tagged the ball for a single that Greenlee missed the stop sign at third on and was tagged out trying to score for the second out of the inning.
   Bowers continued with a hot stick as he stoked a two RBI single that gave the Cyclones their first lead. The Cyclones weren't finished as Williams reached on an error and Hurt scorched another RBI single picking up Bowers and more importantly extending the Cyclone lead to 7-5.
   Central helped the Cyclones out in the bottom of the frame as Josh O'Dell singled and Brian Jackson hit into a 4-6-3 double play. Vines then retired Shane Jobe on a fly ball that was handled by Williams at third for out number three.
   Needing a little more breathing room, the Cyclones responded by putting up a solo spot on the board in the top of the seventh. Joseph Taylor and Hodge led off the inning by drawing a walk.
   Miller hit a shot to short that couldn't be handled cleanly, skipping into centerfield and allowing Nathan Bishop, running as a pinch runner for Taylor, to score before Hodge was tagged out going for third. The score now was 8-5 in favor of 'Betsy.
   A pumped-up Cyclone team was ready to shut the door on the Cougars, but Central still had a final say. After Porter recorded a quick out in right field, Daniel Skelton singled and Shane Benderman walked.
   Wes "Bus" Greer took over for Vines and enticed Chris Moore into a fielder's choice eliminating lead runner Skelton at third on a nice defensive play by Williams. Greer was able to get tough hitting Garrett McConnell to fly out to center and bring on a celebration by the Cyclone players and fans.
   "We really wanted this one bad because of the horrible way we played at their place," stated a tired but elated Miller. "It doesn't matter to us if there are two outs, one out, or no outs, we know if we play hard we can score runs and we did today."
   A dejected Cougar coach Brandon Krantz added: "We played hard early and then the momentum changed, but that is the game of baseball. I am proud of our kids and can't wait to get back out there next season."