Either Cleveland showed up an hour early or the District 5-AAA baseball game was delayed an hour.
The Blue Raiders will take it either way and actually discussed getting to tonight's game vs. top seed Ooltewah a couple of hours early. They won Wednesday, knocking off Rhea County 7-1.
If there was a darkhorse in the field, it might be the Blue Raiders, who finished fourth in the district with a 7-5 record. Three of their five losses were by a run and another was by two. In only one game, the second loss to Ooltewah, were they blown out.
Pitcher Taylor Thompson might not have had his best stuff -- he was berating himself after giving up an RBI single to Trevor Sharp, the Golden Eagles' No. 9 hitter -- but he struck out seven and allowed just five hits.
The second-inning RBI came after Thompson retired the first two batters. He gave up a single to Mike Garrison, who moved to second when Krischan Goins worked a walk and came around to score on Sharp's single to right-center.
"I felt good coming out. I just had that one inning when I let my guard down," the Blue Raiders junior said. "I left [the pitch] up a little bit, even though it was out pretty far. It was just a good hit."
Thompson might have relaxed after getting two outs because the walk surrendered to Goins was the only free pass he issued. Four of his seven strikeouts came on called third strikes.
"Taylor's been stellar all year," Cleveland coach Ted Carson said. "He keeps the ball around the plate and gives the defense a chance. He made pitches when he had to."
Jake Wyrick, the Blue Raiders' lefty and the likely man to pitch against Ooltewah tonight, gave Thompson a passing grade.
"He's been throwing like that all year; consistent. He just throws strikes and doesn't walk many," Wyrick said.
Wyrick, also a junior, did his share offensively, launching a first-inning home run to give Taylor and early lead and then adding a run-scoring single in the Blue Raiders' three-run second. Kimsey Bell also hit a home run while Koltyn Plumb added a double and a single. Among the nine Cleveland batters, each had at least one hit, an RBI or a run scored.
In Wednesday's late game in 5-AAA, Bradley Central beat McMinn County 4-0, with Jacob Maynard pitching a two-hitter and hitting a solo home run.
Contact Ward Gossett at email@example.com or 423-886-4765.