After an 11-0 loss to Walker Valley on Tuesday, Oak Ridge squeezed past the Mustangs 9-8 at home on Thursday.
It was considered a big team win. Down by one late in the game, the Wildcats (5-7) scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to take the victory. They had already battled back from an 0-4 deficit earlier in the game.
“It was a great team effort,” Oak Ridge Coach Mark Garrison said.
The Wildcats tied the Mustangs 7-7 in the sixth inning with help from a two-run double by Logan Williams. The junior was 4-of-5 at bat and he didn’t give up any runs on the mound, Garrison said.
Walker Valley (7-4) took a one-run 8-7 lead in the top of the ninth inning.
But Oak Ridge freshman Donovan Black laid out a two-strike squeeze, or bunt, to tie the game and then win it in the bottom of the ninth, with the bases loaded. Wildcats junior Jacob Ownby scored to tie the game, and Walker Valley threw over first base, allowing Oak Ridge senior Brice Mlekodaj to score the winning run.
“They showed determination and resilience,” Garrison said. “They didn’t quit when they were down. They fought all the way to the end.”
The Wildcats lost at Walker Valley 11-0 in six innings on Tuesday. Parents and coaches were pleased that Oak Ridge battled back for the win on Thursday.
Senior Ben Aird, fighting a knee injury from an earlier game, played first base on Thursday.
Garrison said freshman players stepped up into roles, and that “was big.”
Besides Black, he cited freshman Bryson Caldwell, who played third base and left field.
The Wildcats used several pitchers, including Ownby, who normally plays catcher but threw 60 pitches Thursday; Williams; junior Ian Campbell; and freshman Chris Van Hook, who threw 15 pitches, Garrison said. A new pitch-count rule “greatly affects” teams like Oak Ridge that don’t have a lot of depth. So, for example, Garrison kept Williams below 25 pitches, which allows him to have zero days rest.
The Wildcats play Powell (7-3) at home this evening. That game is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. at the Oak Ridge Baseball Complex off Wilberforce Avenue.
Oak Ridge is 0-2 in District 3-AAA. Both of the district losses were to Karns.
The game against Powell today will be the third district game of the season. Powell is still good, even after losing pitcher Peyton Alford, who was a senior last year, Garrison said. He said Levi Everett is now one of the top pitchers for the Panthers.
Garrison said Oak Ridge played tough opponents early in the season, and the Wildcats have more district games coming up. He said he is still optimistic that the Wildcats can eclipse last year’s record of 15-17 and 6-9 in District 3-AAA.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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