Tyler Biddle came up with a surprise Thursday.
In an opening-round game of the Soddy-Daisy Trojans Invitational, the senior pitcher's one-hitter led McMinn County to a 1-0 victory over host Central.
Biddle was locked in a pitchers' duel, something few coaches expect in weekend tournament play, with Purple Pounders sophomore Dakota Fowler, who held the Cherokees to five hits.
"Nope, you never expect something like this in a [midseason] tournament," said first-year McMinn coach Matt Ray, the former Cherokee who returned to Athens after college and pro careers. "I have confidence in our pitchers and we have a fairly deep pitching staff, but you next expect a 0-0 game going into the seventh. It's totally opposite of what I thought coming in."
Biddle struck out five, Fowler fanned six and both escaped bases-loaded jams. McMinn filled them in the second inning with two outs, but Fowler induced an inning-ending infield grounder. The Pounders filled the bags in the bottom of the sixth, when they got their hit, but Biddle got a strikeout to end the threat.
The Pounders also had a runner thrown out at the plate when he missed the signal. The batter was expected to bunt a runner on first to second, and the runner from third broke home and was out by five feet.
"We're still on spring break," a disgusted Central coach Glen Carter said. "They didn't show up to play baseball. They're still running around, and in their minds they're out fishing or doing something other than baseball.
"This is the worst we have played. No enthusiasm. My guy throws a five-hit game and gives up one run and we can't win. We couldn't hit a beach ball right now. We don't help ourselves. Their guy did a good job throwing strikes. We have to do our part and swing the bats. One hit isn't going to win a little league game."
McMinn waited till there were two outs in the seventh before scoring the game's lone run.
Leadoff hitter Javan Simpson ripped a double to left-center.
"I was thinking, 'Get out of here, get out of here,' but when you get a leadoff double you have to score that run," Ray said.
Simpson scooted to third on Stephen Cruze's sacrifice bunt, and after Fowler got a strikeout, nine-hole Cherokees batter Drew Godsey poked a seeing-eye single just beyond the outstretched reach of Pounders second baseman Caleb Morgan.
"This time we managed to score the run, but that's how it's been this year," Ray said, looking back on his team's missed scoring opportunities. "We haven't capitalized on our opportunities enough, and if you're going to be a good ballclub you have to do that."
Contact Ward Gssett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.