Raiders rally, win 8-5

Raiders rally, win 8-5

March 23rd, 2011 by Ward Gossett in Sports - Preps

Walker Valley High School pitcher Brandon Zajac throws to the plate as Walker Valley hosts Cleveland High School in a baseball game Tuesday.

Walker Valley High School pitcher Brandon Zajac throws...

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Cleveland assistant baseball coach Danny Carson, AKA the bus driver, said something he shouldn't have before the Blue Raiders' game Tuesday at Walker Valley, and they couldn't wait for him to pay up.

After Cleveland's 8-5 comeback victory over the Mustangs at Mike Turner Field, Carson was reminded that he had promised a victory lap.

"Oh gosh, I let my mouth overload my pockets. They remembered that?"

Carson talked the players into waiting until they returned to Cleveland, promising to hit the Blue Raiders' track.

"I wouldn't let him do it here. Heck, the game was three and a half hours and that lap would've taken another hour," said Cleveland head coach Ted Carson, Danny's younger brother.

While the Blue Raiders headed home a happy bunch, Walker Valley was loading up to head for a tournament in Charleston, S.C. It didn't promise to be a quick enough trip for Mustangs coach Joe Shamblin.

"We haven't found out how to close the door on people," he said after the Mustangs let 3-0 and 4-1 leads slip away.

With Walker Valley ace Brandon Zajac on the mound, Shamblin, the Carsons and the dozen or so pro scouts on hand to watch the big lefty did not anticipate much scoring.

"I figured three or four runs [combined], but we finally got some timely hits - Derek Murray, Caleb Hiddleson, Conor Hale - and unlike Monday night we didn't make six or seven errors," Ted Carson said.

Zajac, a University of Tennessee signee, left the game after three innings with a 3-1 lead, having thrown 75 pitches. Each of the 15 batters he faced saw at least three pitches. He struck out three, leaving the bases loaded in the second with a K, but he also walked three and gave up three hits.

The scouts were packed up and gone by the time Cleveland made its surge.

"I wouldn't have expected this type game with Brandon pitching," Shamblin said. "He wasn't feeling so good, but we have confidence in our other pitchers and they and our defense let us down. You have to credit Cleveland because they kept pecking away."

Murray went 3-for-4 and went to the mound in the bottom of the third and allowed three hits and just one run over the final four innings for his first win of the season.

"We came and watched their game [last week] with Ooltewah and I felt we could score some runs, but [assistant] Coach [Dave] Altopp kept reminding us to take a strike. I didn't think, though, that anybody would score more than four," said Murray, who's being recruited by Lee University and Cleveland State.

Hiddleson went 2-for-5 and knocked in three runs, including two with a single in the fourth when Cleveland took its first lead and another in the fifth when the Raiders took the lead for good. Hale had two singles and drove in two runs in the fourth.

Jared Broome, Colton Ward and Logan Longwith each had two of the Mustangs' nine hits.