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By GOOSE LINDSAY
It was all Harriman from start to finish Tuesday night as Andy Adcox’s Blue Devils traveled to Rockwood and rolled to a 13-3 victory over the Tigers in the Region 2-A championship game.
Tuesday’s contest was a lot different than last week’s District 3-A championship in which Rockwood won by a 7-2 final score.
“We came out ready to play today,” Harriman head coach Andy Adcox said after the game. “I think we saved all of our hits from last week and used them tonight. Hopefully, we saved some of them for Friday because that’s all that matters now.”
Friday will be do or die time for both the Tigers and Devils as they are both one win away from playing in next week’s TSSAA Class A State Tournament. Harriman will play at home in Friday’s sectional contest while Rockwood’s loss will send the Tigers to upper East Tennessee.
“It’s disappointing,” Rockwood head coach Joey Cofer said following the loss. “But we’re still looking on the bright side because we still get to play Friday just like Harriman. We’re both one game away from where we want to be.”
Harriman never trailed Tuesday and it was evident early that the Blue Devils were going to be tough to beat as Adcox’s squad put six runs on the board in the top of the first inning.
Nathan Smith opened the inning with a single and Cody Pierce followed with a walk before A.J. Johnson put the Devils on top for good with a single. Christian Pryor followed by reaching on an error that drove in another run.
After the first out of the inning was recorded, Damian Miller beat out a bunt for a single then Caleb Dryman drove in two runs with a bases loaded single that made the score 4-0.
Cody Barnard walked with two outs to reload the bases then Smith stepped to the plate for the second time in the inning and he ripped a two-run double that made the score 6-0.
Those runs proved huge in more ways than one. Besides having a big lead, Harriman started Tyler Dishman on the mound and those runs took a lot of pressure off the freshman right-hander.
“I was still a little nervous but I felt we were going to win,” Dishman said after tossing a complete-game six-hitter with four walks and three strikeouts past the Tigers.
“We had a freshman pitcher step it up tonight,” Adcox added. “Our game plan going in was to have Tyler go three or four innings then pitch someone else an inning or two before letting someone else finish, but Tyler had just as much fire in the seventh inning as he did in the first. He was intense the whole time.”
Dishman actually took the loss in last week’s district championship game, but he learned from that experience and changed things up a bit for the rematch.
“I mixed in my curve ball a lot more tonight and I threw my change-up more,” he said. “I haven’t done that a lot this year.”
Rockwood did try to make things interesting after the first inning. The Tigers scored two runs in the second inning and one more in the third as they closed to within 6-3 after three innings of play.
Bryant Allen and Shane Doughty scored the runs in the second inning while Curt Boston and Tyler Skidmore picked up the RBIs. Beau Mayton singled and scored in the third inning on a wild pitch.
What little momentum Rockwood had after the third inning left quickly in the fourth inning as Harriman scored five more runs to take a commanding 11-3 lead.
Barnard opened the inning by reaching on an error then Smith ripped a two-run homer over the wall in left field.
Johnson scored later in the inning on a wild pitch, but the second big blow of the inning came when Damian Miller launched a long two-run homer to left-center. Houston Pass was on board when Miller hit his long ball.
Rockwood had just three hits after the fourth inning outburst. Skidmore singled in the bottom of the fourth, Colden Cooper singled in the fifth and Zach Breazeale doubled in the seventh.
Harriman’s final two runs came in the top of the seventh inning.
Miller walked and scored on a single from Barnard then Barnard scored on a single from Pierce.
Smith (4-5, 1 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBIs, 2 runs), Johnson (2-5, 1 RBI, 2 runs) and Miller (2-3, 1 HR, 2 RBIs, 3 runs) all had multiple hits on the day for the Devils while no one had more than one hit for the Tigers.
Harriman will be looking to stick with the same game plan on Friday, but Cofer says his Tigers are going to have to simplify things a bit and work on hitting the baseball before hitting the road Friday evening.
“We’re going to come in and take a lot of BP (batting practice) the next couple of days,” he said. “We’ve got to concentrate on hitting line drives. The last couple of days we’ve been trying to lift the ball too much and not staying on the ball. We’ve got to get back to hitting hard line drives.”