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Big innings push Champs over Vikes in tourney opener

By WILL CARTER ~ Sports Writer
Posted 5/5/23

BELL BUCKLE — In the opening round of the District 7-AA tournament on Thursday night, the Cascade Champions separated themselves from the Community Vikings with a five-run fourth inning, and …

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Big innings push Champs over Vikes in tourney opener


BELL BUCKLE — In the opening round of the District 7-AA tournament on Thursday night, the Cascade Champions separated themselves from the Community Vikings with a five-run fourth inning, and ended the game with four more runs in the fifth inning for a 13-3 run-rule limit victory. 
After Vikings (10-22)  pitcher Thomas Bowling forced two quick ground outs to start the bottom of the fourth inning, the Champions (11-15) battled at the plate to score their five runs on two hits to take a 9-2 lead. 
Sawyer Lovvorn and Zach Crosslin both knocked a double in the inning to keep the rally alive. 
“Two-out RBIs are our biggest thing offensively, especially when it’s a close game,” Champions head coach Travis Sheffield said.
“Community came with a purpose and put it on us to start the game, but we were able to bounce back. Those two-out hits we got were just pure baseball. Most of the time teams that get those and play solid defense are going to win games.”
Sheffield made a pitching change to start the fifth inning with Walker Craig replacing Jaxon Sheffield on the mound with him reaching 95 pitches, but after a trio of walks and a hit batsman scored a run for the Vikings, Zach Crosslin took over for Craig with bases loaded. 
Crosslin got out of the jam with a pair of strikeouts to minimize the damage. 
“I tell all of them that you don’t have to be great out there, you just have to be good enough,” Sheffield said.
“Tonight, Jaxon was good enough. He stepped up when he needed to and got some big outs. Zach came in with bases loaded, and we ended up only allowing one run in that inning. That was tremendous for us.”
Sheffield totaled nine strikeouts on the night while allowing three hits in four innings of work. 
In the bottom half of the inning, Cascade scored one run after Logan Green was hit-by-pitch and advanced home two at-bats later on a wild pitch to take a 10-3 lead. 
Shortly after, Lovvorn stepped to the plate with two runners on, and blasted a double off the right-field wall to score two more runs for the Champions. 
A hit-by-pitch and walk loaded the bases for Conner Melson, who hit a fly ball in foul territory behind first base which allowed Lovvorn to tag up from third and score the game-winning run. 
Lovvorn went 2-for-4 at the plate with a game-high four RBIs on the night. 
“I’ve told him (Lovvorn) to not overthink it when he’s up there because he’s hit the ball well all season – he just swings at bad pitches sometimes,” Sheffield said. “Tonight, he spit on some good curveballs that helped him get ahead in the count. He didn’t miss when they had to throw it over the plate.”
While the Champions had some success at the plate throughout the game, the Vikings struggled to find holes in the defense after the second inning as all three of their hits came in the first two innings. 
For head coach Robbie Davis, it was a matter of one team showing up and one team not. 
“One team wanted to win, and one didn’t. We showed up and went through the motions,” Davis said.
“If you give up 13 runs, with most of them being walks and errors, you’re not competing very well. The ball was coming across the plate, but guys were watching strikes. If you’re doing that at this point of the season, it’s going to be a really short postseason.”
In the top of the second inning, James Beech led off with a single for the Vikings, and Maki Fleming knocked a two-out single a few at-bats later to score Beech for the first run of the game. 
An inning later, Beech pushed one more run across for Community with a sacrifice fly to left field to make it a 4-2 game. 
Their final run of the game came in the top of the fifth after a series of walks and hit-by-pitch from Craig before Crosslin took over on the mound. 
Davis and the Vikings elected to keep their ace on standby with the pitch count rules that come into play during tournament time, so he would be ready to go a full game if needed down the stretch of the tournament. 
“A lot of it is strategy too because we didn’t throw our best arm out there tonight. When you have to follow the pitch count rules in a tournament, you want to have your best guy ready to go,” Davis said. “We just have to look ourselves in the mirror and figure out if we want to keep playing and competing or not. We’ll play a good Grundy team that’s already beaten us once, so hopefully we can be back here on Saturday for the elimination game.”
While the Vikings will take on Grundy County in an elimination game for both teams, the Champions will travel to Chapel Hill to take on the Forrest Rockets for another chance to knock off the top team of the district. 
“They’ve accomplished one goal of beating a team that they haven’t beaten in four years, and now we have another opportunity to beat another one,” Sheffield said. “I don’t want to say these guys deserve to win because we don’t want anything handed to us. We want to work hard for what we get, and the guys have worked hard all season.”

Cascade 040 54 — 13 6 1
Community 011 01 — 3 3 4

Cascade: Noah McGeary 1-for-1, Sawyer Lovvorn 2-for-4, Jaxon Sheffield 1-for-2, Zach Crosslin 1-for-2, Walker Craig 1-for-3.
Community: Mason Russell 1-for-1, James Beech 1-for-1, Maki Fleming 1-for-4.

WP: Sheffield 
LP: Paschal