BASEBALL: Bearcats erupt for district win over Shelby

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Anderson capitalizes on seven Rocket errors

By John Herndon

This one was far from a classic.


About the only things that resembled the 11-inning thriller Anderson County and Shelby County put together in the Eighth Region championship game last June were the names on the front of the jerseys.

Classic? Far from it.

But Anderson, at least, was not complaining after taking a 10-3 win and virtually guarantee itself a bye in the first round of the 30th District Tournament in late May.

But last Thursday, the Bearcats and Rockets combined for 10 errors, several wild pitches and passed balls, base running errors that resulted in three pickoffs and others being cut down trying to squeeze more bases out of hits.

In the midst of the errors, Anderson junior Landon Case emerged with an impressive pitching performance, scattering six hits and striking out six to get the win. “I found out the last day we were in Florida that I would be pitching tonight,” Case said of the decision made during spring break.
Case walked two, and pitched out of a bases-loaded, two-out jam – aided by two Anderson erros – in the second inning.

“Landon's performance was impressive,” said Anderson coach L.W. Barnes. “When the defense failed him, he never let it bother him, and his stuff was good enough to not get hurt by the porous defensive play.”

Anderson gave Case a quick lead when junior catcher Travis Phillips ripped a single to score Logan Woodside and Clay Guffey with two out in the first. The Bearcats never gave the advantage up.
“That was real big right there,” Case said. “It is a lot easier to pitch with the lead.”

Phillips went 2-for-3 with a walk for the day. “Travis' hit was huge,” Barnes said. “Any time you can win the first inning it is a major confidence boost. Travis also played exceptionally behind the plate.”
Anderson had gotten a reprieve earlier in the inning when Shelby misplayed Alex Sparrow's foul pop with one out. Given a reprieve, Sparrow eventually drew a walk, opening the way for Phillips' hit.
It would be the story of the night for both teams.

“We are always preaching to our players that we just can't afford to give away outs,” Barnes said. “Shelby gave us many opportunities and we capitalized.”

“We did not execute,” said Shelby coach Bart Roettger. “Against a good team like Anderson, you just can't make those kind of mistakes.”

Yet, before erupting for five runs in the bottom of the fifth, Anderson was in a giving mood, as Sparrow and Case got picked off first base in the third, then Michael Harley was thrown out at home after a passed ball for the first out of the fifth.

“We ran the bases terribly. … Those outs could have really come back to get us.”
Shelby got within 2-1 when Daniel Murphy, who led the Shelby attack with three hits, drove in Kambron Bruner with one out in the fourth.

But an inning later, Anderson turned four Shelby walks into the decisive blow. The Bearcats scored five times, three on Woodside's two-out double off reliever Tyler Eades to make it 7-1.

“I just wanted to put the ball in play,” Woodside said.

The sophomore put it in play in the right-center field gap, effectively ending any hope Shelby had.

“Logan has been our most consistent hitter all year. He is definitely a force, and I'm sure with the bases loaded, Woodside was the last guy Bart wanted to see at the plate,” Barnes said. “Woodside produced like a premier player should.”

Shelby got two back on Austin Anderson's double in the sixth, but Guffey fired a strike to Michael Harley on the relay to cut Anderson down at third and end the inning.

Case and Cole Sayre both delivered run-scoring singles and Sayre scored when Granville Hayes reached on an error in the bottom of the inning for the final score.

Anderson improved to 5-8 and 2-0 in district play. Shelby fell to 9-5 and 0-1.

Even with Anderson taking a major step to a good seed in the district tournament, it was not a night that was befitting the schools that have dominated the Eighth Region over the last 11 years.

“(We had) four errors, two booted balls by the infield and two drops by our outfielders is unacceptable,” Barnes said. “We make routine plays and that's probably a 5-inning game. We have the players, now the players just need to make plays.

“We must be better at laying off the terrible breaking balls and the balls that are out of the strike zone. I like our aggressiveness at the plate, I think it has helped our offense, but like the baserunning, we have to be aggressive but smart. … We had too many strikeouts (six) against an average pitcher.”

Roettger, however, also saw a lesson from history. “I told our kids to remember what Anderson did last year after we beat them in the regular-season.”

In that one, also in mid-April, Shelby mercy-ruled the Bearcats 16-6, but six weeks later, Anderson was one out, maybe one pitch, from going to the state tournament.

Even after a comedy of miscues, the memories of the classic are still fresh.