For six innings East Hamilton coach Steve Garland tried to get his team's attention, even booting a ball bucket.
His perseverance paid off in the seventh as the Hurricanes zeroed in and rallied from 6-1 and 6-3 deficits with four runs in the bottom of the seventh to beat Hixson 7-6 at Chattanooga State.
It had to be a satisfying win for Garland and East Hamilton because they escaped what would have been their first loss to the Wildcats.
"I told their guys after the game that they outplayed us and that they deserved to win," Garland said. "You have to take your hat off to them and their starter [Chase Jones] who kept us off-balance."
The Hurricanes were their own worst enemies, committing six errors -- the primary reason that their coach spoke on more than one occasion about their lack of focus.
But in the seventh when he had their attention, he also had a speedster leading off before getting back to the top of the order.
Matt Milita reached on a walk and advanced to second on a botched pickoff throw. Leadoff man Hunter Parker walked and advanced on Tanner Ungos' sacrifice bunt.
"I knew we had speed coming up, and I wanted to get them on base in front of [Austin] Gatewood and [Nick] Auger," Garland said.
Gatewood responded with a two-run single to right-center and Auger followed with a triple to left-center that scored Gatewood. Auger was then cut down at the plate on a botched-squeeze bunt but Hunter Owen walked and Hixson elected to load the bases, issuing an intentional walk to pinch-hitter Nick Fahler. The winning run then crossed the plate when Matty Henshaw took a pitch off his left shoulder.
"East Hamilton kicked it around some but give them credit," Hixson coach Shane Roberson said. "Their three and four hitters stroked the baseball on some good pitches."
It was a gut-wrenching loss for the Wildcats, who fell to 0-8 after letting oone get away.
"We have to learn to close [games] out," Roberson said. "Our goal, win or lose, is to get better every game and we're doing that. The effort is there."
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...