Dykes catalyst for Warriors in comeback win

By Tim Chambers

   Dikes can be defined as dams built to prevent the overflowing of water from rivers, but a different type of Dykes broke loose and caused a major flooding for the Sullivan Central Cougars Sunday afternoon at Joe O'Brien Field.
   Behind a 4-for-4 performance, including the game-winning hit from Allen Dykes, Happy Valley advanced to the finals of the winners' bracket of the District 1-AA baseball tournament with a 6-5 win over the Cougars.
   "I was nervous that last time at bat," stated Dykes. "I knew when he got down 3-0 (in the count) with the bases loaded that he had to come with the fastball. I was looking for it."
   After a scoreless first inning, Happy Valley took a 3-0 lead in the second. After Tim Whaley led off with a walk, Ryan Toney's base hit got by the center fielder to score Whaley for a 1-0 lead.
   A perfect relay to third got Toney but the Warriors weren't finished. Jordy Harrison reached on an error, then Drew Davis drew a walk. A balk allowed a run to score, followed by a Dykes single that scored Harrison. Shannon Buchanan was safe another Golden Raider error for a 3-0 Warrior advantage.
   The Cougars battled back in the third as Justin Cranford walked and Jeff Beverly singled. A Eric Lockner base hit was good for an RBI, then Daniel Skelton reached on an infield hit and Josh O'dell lined a shot to left that tied the score at 3-3.
   The Cougars took a 5-3 lead in the fourth. Ron Jones walked, Cranford doubled, and a single from Beverly was good for two RBIs, giving Cougar fans reason to smell an upset.
   The Warriors squeaked out a solo run in the fifth after Todd Caldwell tripled on a shot to right center and came home on a Whaley's base knock, pulling the Valley within one at 5-4.
   "We've were down five the last week and came to win," stated Whaley. "You've got to have the confidence that you can come back and win as well as confidence in one another. This team definitely has that."
   Caldwell dug deep and continued to battle, refusing to let his team quit. The sophomore lefty held the Cougars to no runs over the next three innings while giving up only two hits.
   The Warriors wasted singles by Dykes and Buchanan in the sixth as Jessie Lane came in and shut the door on Happy Valley, ending any scoring threat.
   The maroon machine revved up its engine in the seventh when Caldwell smacked a double deep to right, and Whaley reached on a single. With runners at second and third and no outs, Lane got a strikeout and a pop fly in the infield to silence the Warrior crowd.
   Davis was hit by a two-strike pitch, bringing up Dykes. After running the count to 3-0, Dykes took a strike before delivering the game winner.
   Dykes' stellar performance was followed by Whaley, who collected three hits on the day. Caldwell came up big with a double and a triple while Toney added two hits to the cause.
   "Every team gets up for us now because we won the conference," said Caldwell. "I didn't have my best stuff today but my team kept giving me the support I needed both offensively and defensively.
   Caldwell went the distance, giving up eight hits, while striking out six on the day.
   "Dykes was outstanding today and Caldwell was a gamer," stated Warrior head Coach Greg Hyder. "Our kids kept battling all day and never quit. You couldn't ask for a better group of players to coach."
   Added Hyder: "I want to dedicated this game to my mother (Shelby Hyder) on this special mother's day. She has been my biggest supporter and has always been there for me."
   "I could never repay her for all the things she has given me."
   The Warriors will play today at 7 p.m. against the Unicoi County Blue Devils, a 10-5 winner over Sullivan North Sunday afternoon. North and Central collide at 5 p.m. in the losers' bracket game.