The Clinton Riverdogs faced off against the Highlanders in their final game of the East Tennessee High School Baseball League in a nailbiter that ended in a tie game, eliminating the Riverdogs from progressing further.
The Riverdogs took an early lead in the first inning with a single run, and increased it to a 3-0 lead in the third inning after batting two runners in. Unfortunately for the dogs, they couldn’t hold the Highlanders in the last three innings, giving up 5 points across all three. The Riverdogs managed to gain two more runs in the final inning, but couldn’t edge out the last run they needed to finish with a win.
Adam Sharp and Chase Lockard were the lead hitters for the game, with each of them finishing the night with three hits to their name. Lockard also finished with an astounding five runners batted in and four quality-at-bats. Mac Lowe finished with 2 quality-at-bats and a walk, while Ethan Tinker finished with a walk.
On the pitching side of the game, Chase Lockard again shined, pitching for six innings. Lockard also came away with 14 first pitch strikes and six strikeouts. Mac Lowe also pitched for the Riverdogs, coming away with a respectable four first pitch strikes and two strikeouts. Lockard finished with a WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) of 1.00, slightly behind Highlanders pitcher Cayden Varnedoe’s final WHIP of 0.92, while Mac Lowe finished with a WHIP of 2.00.
Coach Kenneth Lowe said the team really started coming together in the final weeks of the season.
“They played hard. They started really playing ball together. The effort was there that hadn’t quite been there beforehand. I think they finally started to realize that it was getting down to the wire and they needed to buckle down in they wanted to do it. We had more hits in these last two games than we probably had all season.
“The tie was especially rough because we were ahead and then had that one big inning that kept biting us all season. We tied again and went into the top of the seventh and gave up two runs with two outs. We just couldn’t find the strike zone. It’s so funny how they can be going along making plays so easily and then the pressure of knowing they’re so close just completely makes them tighten up.”
Even with the Riverdogs done for the season, though, Lowe said they all wanted to thank the Smokies for the opportunity.
“All the people at Smokies Stadium were great and this has been a once in a lifetime opportunity for most of these kids. The staff was always great to deal with and, for a lot of these guys, this will be something that they always remember. The seniors got their last season and a lot of the younger guys got some experience they never would have gotten.
“Even the ones that didn’t get to play much got to see a lot of baseball they wouldn’t have ever gotten to otherwise.
“Everybody up there was rooting for us at the end and came down and talked to us to get the kids all pumped up.
“Thanks to all the parents that came out to support us and all the people from Clinton. We had the biggest group of fans there every night, as far as I could tell, and we had to travel the furthest. It was an awesome deal. We just ended up on the wrong side of the scoreboard.”