In desperate need of some check marks in the win column, Rhea County baseball swept Stone Memorial for a pair of district wins on the plateau Wednesday, April 10.
The Golden Eagles claimed game one 7-4 before walking it off in style in the nightcap, 9-6 courtesy of 2021 Virginia Tech commit Keaton Ray’s three-rub bomb to center field, snapping a 6-6 tie.
With what proved to be a sign of things to come, the Golden Eagles pulled away late for the win in game one of the doubleheader. RC got on the board in the first inning when John Combs knocked a single to right field to plate Ray who doubled on a fly ball to center to lead off the game.
Stone Memorial responded in the bottom of the inning as Cameron McDonald reached first on a fly ball. Jordan Pelfrey followed with another base knock to right, which scored McDonald, who had advanced to second on a passed ball. Rhea County’s Ricky Guthrie struck out Alex Sixkiller to get out of a little trouble, stranding a pair of runners at first and second.
The Eagles sent across two additional runs in the top of the next inning as Ross Pendergrass was the beneficiary of Panther shortstop Dylan Whittenburg’s error. Cade Cook made Stone pay for the miscue as he laced an 0-2 pitch to right field for a triple, scoring Pendergrass. On a 3-2 count, Ray lined a double to left to bring home Cook for the 3-1 lead.
Guthrie’s quick 1-2-3 inning in the second put Rhea back up to bat however it was nothing doing for the locals there. In the bottom of the frame, McDonald took first base after being hit by a pitch. Pelfrey went down swinging but Blaine Reel’s error on a Anthony Sherrill fly ball plated McDonald. However, Guthrie struck out Whittenburg to keep the locals ahead, 3-2.
The Panthers tied the game 3-3 in the fourth inning when Sixkiller scored on a passed ball after he led off the inning with a double to center field and advanced to third on a Tanner Hurd ground out.
Jared Fisher’s single to right field in the fifth scored Ray and Austin Brackett who had reached via a walk and single, respectively, and put Rhea County ahead, 5-3. It also sent Connor Thompson to third after he had reached via bunt single that moved Ray and Brackett into scoring position.
Thompson’s plate crossing was made possible when Guthrie grounded out into a fielder’s choice to make the score 6-3 in favor of Rhea County. Reel’s pop fly to short let Guthrie move ahead to second base and he would score on a Ross Pendergrass line drive to left field.
Sherrill’s RBI double in the bottom of the seventh scored Pelfrey but Ray, now on the bump in the final inning, struck out Christian Carlton and Whittenburg to seal the deal.
Guthrie earned the win surrendering three runs on six hits through six innings while striking out 11. Sherrill tossed for two innings, giving up four hits and three runs while striking out one. Pelfrey threw five innings in relief for the Panthers.
In the nightcap, it was again Keaton Ray who was a thorn in the side of his fellow District 6-AAA foes from Crossville.
With the game knotted up 6-6 in the bottom of the seventh, Ray, went yard against Sherrill for a three-run homer to centerfield and the walk-off 9-6 triumph in Crossville.
The Panthers drew first blood in game two as Ross Pendergrass took his spot atop the bump in the nightcap.
McDonald singled to right field to lead off the game and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Pelfrey worked a seven-pitch walk on a 3-2 count. McDonald eventually came around to score, stealing home. Whittenburg’s fly out to first ended the threat of further damage.
RC went right back to work in the bottom end of the frame. Brackett knocked through a single to center field and Stone Memorial pitcher Tanner Hurd beamed Fisher for a free base. John Combs followed suit with line drive to score Brackett and tie the game, 1-1.
Cade McClellan entered the game with just one out in the first inning and Combs advanced on a defensive interference. Thompson then popped out to right but allowed Fisher to tag and score.
The Eagles pushed across two runs in the second following an Eli Johnson walk and singles from Cook and Ray. After Brackett’s single put Johnson out at home, Combs’ two-out single sent home a pair of runs.
The Panthers rallied back in the third as McDonald and Pelfrey were hit by Pendergrass’ pitch. With one out, a balk allowed the runners to advance and both eventually scored on passed balls. The junior pitcher settled in to strike out the next two and leave Rhea ahead, 4-3. Ray’s RBI single in the third pushed the lead back out to 5-3.
In the top of the fifth, Stone Memorial deadlocked the score at 5-5 following a lead off McDonald single, which was followed by Sherrill’s RBI double. Carlton’s single plated Sherrill. The Panthers took the lead when Sixkiller’s grounder led to an error on Brackett to score Carlton.
A Stone Memorial error knotted up the score at 6-6 when Cook scored on a Ray fly ball to left. Pendergrass struck out two in the top of the seventh before Houghston Schaefer took the bump in relief. Ethan Todd went down swinging stranding a pair of runners to end the top of the seventh.
In crunch time, Reel’s lead-off walk got the party started for the Golden Eagles. Johnson bunted into a fielder’s choice, which moved Reel to second. Cook worked a six-pitch walk and Ray delivered the game-winning dinger on a 2-2 count to centerfield.
Pendergrass lasted six and two-thirds innings, allowing seven hits and six runs while striking out 12. Stone’s Hurd started the game but didn’t make it out of the first inning, allowing two runs on two hits.
McClellan and Sherrill combined for relief work of six innings and gave up five runs on five hits and two runs on one hit, respectively.
Both squads grinded out nine hits each with Cook, Combs and Ray leading the way offensively. All told, Ray was three-for-five at the plate to guide the Golden Eagles.
Rusty Ray’s Golden Gang participated in the New Balance Classic Thursday night and knocked off Boyd-Buchanan in eight innings, 6-5.
Schaefer’s RBI triple in the second inning plated a pair of runs but the Bucs came back with four in the fourth. Comb’s RBI ground out in the top of the eighth scored Ray who laced a double earlier in the inning. Boyd went three up, three down in the bottom of the frame to end the game.
Next up, Rhea is slated to travel to Sparta Monday, April 15 to battle the Warriors. The following night will have the Eagles hosting White County. First pitch in both contests is set for 7 p.m. (local time).