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By GOOSE LINDSAY
Some teams just know how to win and the Harriman Blue Devils are one of those teams as Saturday evening Andy Adcox’s squad scratched and clawed their way to a 9-7 victory over Unaka in the sectional round of the TSSAA Class A postseason.
With the victory, Harriman now advances to the TSSAA Class A State Tournament that begins Tuesday evening in Murfreesboro.
“It’s incredible what this team has accomplished this year from day one until today,” Blue Devil head coach Andy Adcox said.
Saturday’s victory was Harriman’s season in a nutshell. The Devils didn’t win with power, but rather with pitching, defense and aggressive base running.
“(Tyler) Dishman and (Cody) Barnard pitched a heck of a game today,” Adcox said. “They did an excellent job of hitting spots and working around certain hitters. Barnard has came in all three of our wins this week and finished the job.
“Offensively we laid down some bunts today and stole some bases. We also did a good job of taking pitches and making their pitchers work.”
While Harriman won in the end, the beginning of Saturday’s contest was a nightmare. The Rangers used three hits and a Harriman error to score three runs in the top of the first inning.
Harriman, however, answered the bell and would take the lead for good by the end of the second inning.
Harriman got their first run in the bottom of the first inning and the Devils did so without putting a ball in play.
Barnard and Mark Chesser opened the game with back-to-back walks. Barnard would move to second on a balk and he eventually scored after a pair of wild pitches.
Harriman would send 10 batters to the plate in the second inning and the result was a 5-3 Harriman lead.
Chris Works opened the inning with a single and he eventually scored on a wild pitch. Tyler Manning followed with a walk and he scored when Tyler Stubbs laid down a bunt single. Barnard then blasted one off the wall for a double before Chesser reached safely after another bunt. Barnard scored the final run a wild pitch that made the score 5-3.
Chesser (error), Dishman (walk) and Ryne Goldston (walk) also reached safely later in the inning, but Harriman would leave the bases loaded at the end of the frame.
“We knew Unaka had a very good team coming in here and getting those runs back and taking the lead was huge for us,” Adcox said. “It gave us a lot of confidence and then we were able to put some more runs on the board and then hold them off.”
Harriman made it 6-3 with another run in the bottom of the third inning.
Works opened the inning with a bunt single, but he was erased at second on a bunt from Manning. Manning moved to second on a walk to Stubbs and he took third on another wild pitch. Barnard followed with a sacrifice fly to give the Blue Devils a three-run lead.
Harriman put a lot of pressure on the Rangers with three runs in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Dishman walked to start the inning and he eventually scored when Ryne Goldston ripped a shot to short that was too hot to handle. Andrew Wampler followed with a single then Goldston and Wampler scored on wild pitches as the Devils held a 9-3 lead with three innings left to play.
Those final three innings, however, didn’t go smooth as Unaka picked up seven hits in the fifth and sixth innings to close the gap to 9-7.
Four of those hits came in the fifth inning as the Rangers pulled to within 9-5.
The Rangers also had two runners on with one out in the frame when Barnard came on to put out the fire.
Unaka scored two more runs on three hits and a walk in the sixth inning to make the score 9-7.
There would be no drama in the seventh inning, however, as Barnard struck out the side in order to send the Blue Devils to Murfreesboro.
Harriman’s opponent was not known as of Saturday evening, but coach Adcox isn’t as concerned with who he plays as how well his team with no seniors handles the big stage.
“We’ve just got to do the things we’ve done all year,” Adcox said. “We’ve got to pitch well, play good defense and put the ball in play. If we do those things we should do okay.”