Hixson Wildcats, Red Bank Lions still clawing in playoffs

Hixson Wildcats, Red Bank Lions still clawing in playoffs

May 13th, 2012 by Ward Gossett in Local Regional News

Monday's region baseball games

Region 3-AAA

Warren County (20-17) at Ooltewah (24-12), 7

Walker Valley (24-11) at Cookeville (26-6), 7

Region 4-AA

Livingston Academy at Notre Dame (23-7), 5:30

Signal Mountain (19-12) at Smith County (24-5), 6

Region 3-AA

Central (24-13) at Sequoyah (26-5), 5

Polk County (18-12) at Red Bank (17-21), 7

Region 3-A

Silverdale Baptist (10-10) at South Pittsburg (28-7), 5

Whitwell (19-12) at Boyd-Buchanan (23-8), 5

In describing his team's five-inning loss to Sequoyah last week, Polk County baseball coach Michael Carter said, "We felt like the bug rather than the windshield."

The Wildcats lost the District 5-AA championship but are still moving forward, advancing to Monday's Region 3-AA semifinal at Red Bank. There is no reprieve this time. It's win or go home.

In the other Region 3-AA semifinal, District 6 runner-up Central travels to Sequoyah.

In Region 3-AAA, District 5 winner Ooltewah is at home against Warren County and Walker Valley travels to Cookeville. In Region 4-AA, District 7 winner Notre Dame hosts Livingston Academy and Signal Mountain travels to Smith County.

Region 3-A is all area teams with 5-A winner Boyd-Buchanan and 6-A champ South Pittsburg hosting Whitwell and Silverdale Baptist, respectively.

Monday's winners will play for region championships Wednesday, when both teams in each game will advance to sectionals, the last step to qualifying for the state championship tournaments in Murfreesboro.

Red Bank might be considered the most unlikely postseason candidate of the area teams still playing. The Lions entered the 6-AA tournament on a 14-game losing streak. They exited with a 4-1 record and their third straight district title.

"Honestly, did anybody think we could come out and win it? I don't know," Lions coach Trey Hicks said. "[The district championship] had been ours the last two years, and I kept telling the guys it was ours until somebody took it away from us."

It was more likely a matter of bats coming back to life at the right time. In both championship games Red Bank hit the ball. The Lions scored 10 runs in the top of the seventh to nail down the title.

"I have told the guys all year that an error or a walk can completely change an inning, and hitting's contagious," Hicks said. "They hit well in that last inning, but even though we were up 14-7 with three outs to go, I don't think I relaxed until that final out."

While the Lions celebrated late Wednesday night, Central coach Glen Carter was reminding his Pounders that they came up one inning short of one of their season goals.

"We played well three games in a row," he said of wins over Hixson, East Hamilton and Red Bank. "We ran out of gas and Red Bank turned it on when they needed to."

The last time the Pounders advanced out of the district was in 2001, long before Carter arrived.

"I'm proud of our guys," he said. "They never quit. They knew what was on the line and stepped up pretty good considering they'd never been there before."