Note: This story was updated at 10 p.m. May 21.
GIBBS—Oak Ridge baseball head coach Mark Garrison had to give credit where credit was due.
The Wildcats fell victim to a dominating pitching performance by Powell’s Peyton Alford, who struck out 14 Oak Ridge batters and finished the game with a no-hitter in the Panthers’ 3-0 victory on Friday.
“He’s always good and I think that he was extra good today,” Garrison said. “He had a lot of days of rest, about five or six days. We did everything we could do. (Oak Ridge senior) Spencer Wilson did a great job even though he scattered 10 hits. We played great defense, and he kept us in the game. That’s what Spencer does. We just didn’t have an answer for Alford. He was very, very good.”
It was the District 3-AAA tournament opener, played at Gibbs High School.
Aside from an error, the Wildcats did in fact play solid defense and the pitching of Wilson—who recently tied the school’s record for most wins in a season—prevented Powell from taking a substantial lead.
However, despite a few walks and a number of strategies implemented by Garrison in the dugout, Alford was simply on his game.
“We tell them to spread out, choke up, get closer to the plate, and find a way to put the ball in play,” Garrison said. “We tried bunting a few times. We couldn’t even get a bat on a bunt. He was that dominant.”
Powell (19-12, 11-5 District 3-AAA) got on the board in the bottom of the first inning before scoring runs in both the fourth and fifth innings. On the season, the Panthers are 3-0 against Oak Ridge, and Alford has pitched for Powell all three times. However, the Wildcats have been within striking distance in each game.
“Obviously, in this one, when you strikeout 14 times, no matter how good the guy is, you have to find a way to put pressure on him,” Garrison said. “Whether it’s bunting it, or putting it in play and making them throw and catch it. We just didn’t do that.”
The season isn’t over for Oak Ridge (15-16, 6-9), who receive one last chance Saturday to extend their season in the double-elimination style tournament.
“I told them to keep their head up, proud of everybody today, that he was darn good,” Garrison said. “I told them that, in my prime, I don’t even know if I would want to hit against him today. But tomorrow’s a new day. Now it’s a one-game season.”
The Wildcats will play Gibbs (19-14, 11-5) at 5 p.m. Saturday, May 7, at Gibbs High School. Oak Ridge lost twice to the Eagles during the regular season.
After the Oak Ridge-Gibbs game, Powell will play Halls (12-15, 5-10). The Red Devils beat Gibbs 6-0 on Friday to advance to play the Panthers. The Powell-Halls game starts at 7:30 p.m. at Gibbs High School.
Updated: Oak Ridge lost to Gibbs 2-1 on Saturday, May 7, ending the Wildcats’ 2016 season.
David Bradford is a freelance contributor to Oak Ridge Today.
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