Rested Cyclones end season for a tired team of Longhorns
By Jonathan PleasantWith a win over Happy Valley behind them, the Longhorns waited patiently at J. Fred Johnson Stadium for the Elizabethton Cyclones to arrive and play the second game of the day. Just the night before the Longhorns had given Elizabethton a close fight to the finish, leading most of the way before a couple of final hits changed the outcome. Yet, as energetic as that match up was, Johnson County’s next meeting with the Cyclones had very different results.
The initial Happy Valley game obviously took its toll, and with Logan Sargent out of the picture for the pitching staff, Johnson County had to resort to a sort of trial by fire with their younger players. Freshman Nick Whitener took the mound for the first time this season, staying in just two-thirds of an inning but still throwing 17 strikes for 25 total pitches. With a walk and five hits in that short period of time, the coaching staff was forced to make some rapid changes with Jake Sutherland coming in for nearly four innings.
Although it was a tough position to be in Whitener took his performance in stride, and even Coach Pavusek admitted it would be good medicine for further down the road as it was when Logan Sargent was in the exact same position last year. “You’ve got to have pitching at this point in the game,” Pavusek said. “It’s some good experience for the younger guys. It’s a nice ball field, nice complex, big time baseball. It’s a good experience. It paid off for Logan. He had a rotten experience last year at the district tournament and he came in here today and pitched an in against Happy Valley. Whether he wants to admit it or not he might have learned something along the way.”
Regrettably those five early hits, including one huge homerun from Hunter Hodges resulted in an initial five-run deficit even before the Longhorns had a chance at bat. Johnson County has had offensive trouble against Elizabethton all through the regular season, and with that detrimental sweep already against them, it just made a bad situation worse. Try as they may, the Longhorns were unable to get a single hit until Jose Guzman landed one in the right field gap during the third inning.
Another hit from Daniel Livorsi followed that one, but both runners came up short as Guzman was caught on his way to home plate and Livorsi was left standing by two strikeouts. Johnson County was able to get a little luck again in the fourth, when the bases loaded up after Nick Whitener got on with a walk and was advanced by a double from Sam Thomas. Logan Sargent followed up with a grounder, but Whitener was caught out on his way from third, and with two more catches deep in field from Guzman and senior Blade Hampton, Johnson County was once again cut short of a run.
That was the closest the Longhorns came to a real drive. Nathaniel Graybeal got on base in the fifth with a hit into right field and Adam Worley made it as far as third in the sixth, but other than those two advances Johnson County simply couldn’t match the Cyclones at bat. Elizabethton put up another run in the second went into a couple inning dry spell and then blasted to the win in the fifth and sixth with another four runs to bring the final score to 0-10.
Despite that final season ending shutout, Coach Pete Pavusek was still in fairly good spirits, taking a surprisingly optimistic view of the team’s performance this year. “We finished the season 11-11 overall which isn’t bad,” Pavusek said. “It’s not bad for not knowing what you had going into it. We had a lot of positions that needed to be filled. Had a lot of guys step up, and ended up with a pretty good season. We won a game in the district tournament, but we got to the point where we ran out of pitching and that’s tough. We’ve got some younger guys, guys coming in from the middle school that will fill in. We just want to get better and better each year. We’re going to have some lean years, and this was supposed to be one of them, but we played well.”