The Hixson High School baseball team was looking forward to going to the midstate, but the Wildcats would have preferred to do it at next week's Spring Fling in Murfreesboro.
They at least have to make an earlier trip Friday to play either Murfreesboro Central or DeKalb County in a sectional after losing Wednesday's Region 3-AA championship game 6-1 to Sequoyah. The game between Murfreesboro Central and DeKalb was postponed and will be played this afternoon at 5:30.
"You can't win a region game scoring one run or getting two hits," Wildcats coach Colton Green said.
Hixson and Sequoyah were the only area baseball teams to play Wednesday. The 3-A region final between Boyd-Buchanan and South Pittsburg and the 3-AAA final between Cookeville and Soddy-Daisy were postponed. Those games will be played tonight, Soddy-Daisy traveling to Cookeville for a 7 p.m. EDT start and Boyd-Buchanan going to South Pittsburg for a game that won't see a first pitch until 8:30.
Freshman left-hander Tanner Moylan gave Hixson every chance to win, allowing the potent Chiefs just five hits while striking out nine in six innings.
"Tanner pitched well enough to win," Green said. "We didn't get the clutch hits they did. We made errors, and they took advantage."
"Their freshman did a phenomenal job, a great job of keeping us off-balance," Sequoyah coach Brad Schrock said. "We got a leadoff hit in the first [from Michael McCrary], and he stole second and third and I thought, 'OK, here we go.' And Moylan struck out the next three batters. I could see his confidence go up."
Neither the Wildcats' bats nor their defense were up to the task of support. They managed just two hits, both in the first inning, and committed an uncharacteristic five errors.
With the score tied 1-1 in heading into the fifth, Sequoyah broke on top with a pair of unearned runs. With runners on first and third with two outs, Green called for a throw-down to second if the runner on first attempted to steal.
The throw was on target but no one covered second, allowing the runner on third to score, and then the ball skipped past the center fielder, enabling the runner stealing second to come all the way around for a 3-1 advantage.
"I was never nervous, but waiting for our guys to do enough for us to win," Schrock said. "We're all about being aggressive and having confidence, and once we got up 3-1, I knew we had a guy we could call on to close it out."
Before he had to bring in shortstop Garrett Dalton, though, Sequoyah stretched the lead to 5-1 on Braden Strickland's two-run homer in the top of the sixth.
Chiefs starting pitcher Josh Watson walked Alex Prewitt to open the sixth and then hit Andrew Rollins. A balk put the two at third and second with no outs.
It was then that Schrock went to Dalton, who produced a rally-snuffing three consecutive strikeouts.
Dalton struck out five of the six batters he faced.
"He shut us down," Green said.
"He's done it all year," Schrock added. "He's done that in every game when he's come in. The bigger the situation, the better he pitches."
Contact Ward Gossett at email@example.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.
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 ...