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By GOOSE LINDSAY
When Harriman beat Rockwood 8-3 on April 15, they did so by ripping Tiger ace Zach Breazeale to the tune of eight runs on 15 hits.
Breazeale got his chance at revenge Wednesday evening and the Tiger lefty didn’t waste that opportunity as he tossed a complete-game gem in leading the Tigers to a 7-2 victory over the Blue Devils in the District 3-A Tournament title game.
In going the distance, Breazeale scattered nine hits and allowed only one walk while striking out six on the evening.
“They hit it hard off me last time and were probably happy to see me warming up before the game,” Breazeale said. “But I felt really good tonight. I had more rest this time. The last time I had thrown over 100 pitches on the Friday before against Morristown West and it was a Tuesday game. I was able to throw it a little harder tonight.”
Tiger head coach Joey Cofer never doubted what type of performance Breazeale would put together on Wednesday.
“He told me he wanted the ball and I could tell he was ready,” Cofer said. “He had a different mindset tonight. Zach likes to have fun, but when he steps between those white lines he gets a different attitude and he means business.”
Breazeale said another key to his performance was challenging Blue Devil hitters with his fastball.
“I threw a lot more fastballs tonight,” he said. “I had to go after them more because they hit my off-speed stuff pretty good the first time.”
While Rockwood was going with their ace, Harriman countered with freshman Tyler Dishman. Dishman, who one day will be the Devils ace, matched Breazeale pitch-for-pitch early on and had Harriman in the contest for most of the evening.
Neither team scored in the first two innings, but Rockwood took the lead for good in the bottom of the third inning with an unearned run.
Tyler Skidmore opened the inning by reaching safely on a two-base error by the Harri-man defense. Skidmore moved to third on a bunt single from Chase Clem and he scored on a single from Beau Mayton.
Harriman, however, threw both Clem and Mayton out on the play to avoid any further damage.
Rockwood did their most damage in the fifth inning as five Tigers crossed the plate.
Zach Duncan opened the inning with a walk and he scored on a double from Skidmore. Skidmore took third on the throw home and he scored on a squeeze bunt single from Clem.
Clem was erased on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Mayton, but Colden Cooper and Breazeale followed with singles as Rockwood took a 4-0 lead.
Bryant Allen followed with an RBI grounder then after a walk to Shane Doughty, Curt Boston singled home the final two runs of the inning.
Breazeale took the shutout into the seventh inning, but a two-out two-run single off the bat of Christian Pryor put Harriman on the board. Cody Morton and Cody Barnard had singled earlier in the inning.
Cooper (2-4, 1 run) and Clem (3-3) had multiple hits on the day for Rockwood while Pryor (3-4, 2 RBIs) and Houston Pass (2-4) had multiple hits for Harriman.
With the victory, Rockwood will host the runner-up from District 4-A in Monday’s open-ing round of the Region 2-A Tournament. Entering Thursday, Oliver Springs, Coalfield and Wartburg were still alive in the District 4-A Tournament.
Harriman will play at the District 4-A Tournament champion on Monday.
“We know we’ve got to show up Monday ready to play,” Breazeale said. “I think we can beat anybody in the state if we come ready to play.”
“There’s no other feeling like it,” Cofer said of winning the district championship. “But we’re still looking for bigger and better things. These seniors have worked really hard to get to this point and we want to win the region again.”