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The Cherokee Middle School Yellow Jackets recently capped off a great season with a 24-2 victory over North Middle School in the East Tennessee Regional Championship.
The 22-run victory allowed Brent Kelley’s squad to finish the season with a 21-1 record. The Jackets won both the regular season and district tournament title on their way to the East Tennessee crown.
“I’m really proud of these kids,” head coach Brent Kelley said. “No one gave them a chance to be here. We lost a lot of eighth graders last year and none of these kids played varsity, but they worked hard. They’re a well-behaved bunch, they have a great group of parents and I have a great bunch of assistant coaches that I can’t say enough about.”
Although a 22-run margin of victory seems like a cakewalk, things were a bit dicey for Cherokee for three innings of play. The Jackets led only 3-2 entering the fourth inning, but they put up some football type numbers in the fourth and fifth innings to blow the game open. Seven Jackets scored in the fourth inning then 14 more runners came home in the top of the fifth.
Cherokee scored runs in two of the first three innings, but those innings were also frustrating as they left the bases loaded in the first and third innings.
The Jackets scored the game’s first two runs in the top of the first inning as Brycen Johnson and Jake Tipton both walked and scored to make the score 2-0.
The Jackets made it 3-0 in the top of the third inning as Cully Gargen walked and scored on a two-out single off the bat of Colt Clements.
Cherokee did give up a pair of unearned runs in the bottom of the third inning as the Stars pulled within 3-2, but Cherokee answered with a vengeance as seven runs crossed the plate in the fourth inning to make the score 10-2.
“We made a couple of errors in the third inning and gave up a couple of runs,” Kelley said. “They had their heads down a bit, but they had battled all year and I told them to keep their heads up and let’s do what we do. After that they had a smile on their face and I knew we’d be fine.”
A bases loaded triple from Matt Spellman was the big blow of the inning while Chandler Worley added a two-run single and Chris McAbee also drove in a run with a single.
Any thoughts of a Stars comeback ended in the top of the fifth inning when North simply couldn’t get out of trouble. Cherokee sent 20 batters to the plate and 14 came around to score as the Jackets went on to the 24-2 victory.
Tipton, Gargen and Justin Neal each had two hits and scored two runs in the 14-run fifth inning.
Tipton (2-3,1 RBI, 4 runs), McAbee (2-4, 1 RBI, 2 runs), Cully (2-3, 1 RBI, 4 runs), Neal (2-2, 2 RBIs, 2 runs), Clements (2-3, 3 RBIs, 3 runs) and Worley (2-4, 3 RBIs) all had multiple hits on the day while Spellman picked up the win on the mound.
Spellman, Johnson, Benji Headrick, Quinn Nolan and Noah Dickerson also had hits for Cherokee in the victory.
Spellman picked up the complete-game victory on the mound.