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DRY FORK -- It wasn’t so much what happened as it was what didn’t happen that cut short Carroll County’s baseball season one game into the regionals.
Having already gotten Tunstall’s attention by leading 1-0 after two innings, the Cavaliers came up empty after loading the bases with none out in the third. The golden opportunity was just one of several chances that didn’t pan out Tuesday as Carroll County dropped a 4-2 decision to the Tunstall in the Region IV quarterfinals.
The Piedmont District champion Trojans (21-1) advanced to Thursday’s semifinals where they faced the winner of Wednesday’s rain-delayed quarterfinal between Tazewell and Hidden Valley. Carroll County, the Southwest District runner-up, concluded its year at 16-7.
“Bases loaded, nobody out and we don’t score,” Carroll County coach Joe Tompkins said. “That was tough.”
“That was probably the ballgame right there,” Tunstall coach Barry Shelton said. “They’ve got their star pitcher on the mound, and if they turn that into a two- or three-run inning, I don’t know if our guys would have been able to recover.”
The Cavaliers had taken a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Cavalier pitcher Adam Crotts crushed a two-out double into left-center. Courtesy runner Jarrett Combs scored when Jordan Lamb blooped a base hit off the end of the bat over short.
Tunstall got its leadoff man aboard in each of the first two innings, but a popped-up bunt turned into a double play in the first, and the Cavaliers were able to take the 1-0 lead into the third.
A Craig Rosen walk, a Tyler Reavis bunt that was thrown away and an intentional walk to Crotts filled the basepaths with none out against Tunstall junior Ben Cobbs (8-0), who got Lamb to chase a curve for the first out.
Zack Edwards squared around for a squeeze bunt, but Tunstall sniffed out the play and pitched out. With Edwards in the left-handers’ box, the pitchout was a perfect lead for Trojan catcher Wesley Marshall to fire a snap throw to third, catching Rosen in a rundown. Cobbs fanned Edwards to get out of the jam.
“It was just a stroke of luck,” Shelton said. “Sometimes you guess right, but [the squeeze play] could just as easily been the next pitch and they would have executed. I think that one inning changed the game.”
Tunstall immediately took advantage of the momentum swing when Dylan Cook laced a double to center, eventually scoring on Cody Holder’s sacrifice fly.
Tunstall went long ball in the fourth to take the lead. Jason Turner ripped the first pitch of the inning out of the park in left and two batters later, Travis Wray clubbed a one-out solo shot to center. Cook was a few feet away from Tunstall’s third homer of the inning but instead rattled the fence for a double, scoring on Holt Cassada’s base hit up the middle.
“We were finally able to get the fat part of the bat on the ball,” said Shelton. “We were very impressed with the Crotts kid. Maybe we got him timed up, or he may have gotten a couple of pitches out over the plate, but we had some success right then.”
Carroll managed to trim one run off the lead in the sixth when Jared Cox singled up the middle, took second on a wild pitch and scored on Garrett Nelson’s pinch-hit single, but that was as close as the Cavaliers would come.
After Dillon Bryant led off the fourth with a single, Jordan Hawks looked at a 3-0 pitch in his eyes that was called a strike. Cobbs coaxed a double play grounder on the next pitch, and Jared Cox’s double to left-center came with the bases empty instead of with two on and no outs.
The Cavaliers loaded the bases on two-out singles by Crotts and Lamb plus a hit batter but left them stranded in the fifth.
“They hit the ball in the fourth inning, but we had our chances and we didn’t get it done,” said Tompkins. “We just got beat.”
Carroll County outhit Tunstall 9-7 but left nine men on base. Cobbs struck out 11, walking two. Crotts (6-1) gave up three earned runs, fanned five and walked a couple for Carroll. He, Lamb and Cox each had two hits.
Region IV quarterfinals
Carroll County......100 001 0––2 9 1
Tunstall..................001 300 x––4 7 0
Crotts and Snow. Cobbs and Marshall. WP – Cobbs (8-0). LP – Crotts (6-1). HR – Turner (T) 4th, none on; Wray (T) 4th, none on. 2B – Crotts, Cook 2, Cox.