By Tim Chambers
Tomahawk Sports Editor
ERWIN—Missed opportunities at the plate and a costly error left Johnson County thinking “if only we had” on Friday afternoon at Baxter Field. The young Longhorns battled highly regarded Unicoi County down to the wire before falling 5-2 in their season opener.
The Blue Devils scored a solo run each in the first two innings and added two more in the third on a costly error with two outs.
The Longhorns appeared ready to escape a major jam when Ben Howard made a nice play at second base, but his throw got mishandled at first allowing the Blue Devils to score two unearned runs.
The Longhorns had two runners on in the second and third innings but couldn’t push anything across the plate. That finally changed during the fourth.
Singles by Jayden Joiner and Shane Greer led to Weston Throop and Johnny Arnold scoring who had walked and reached on an error.
Unicoi’s reliever, Clay Simpson was able to escape the inning without further damage. The 6’7 Carson Newman signee pitched strong over the next two frames to preserve the win.
Caleb Wilson combined with Simpson for ten strikeouts in the game. Wilson earned the win while Simpson got the saved.
Hunter Higgins went 2-for-4 to lead the Blue Devils at the plate.
Josh Tierney, Greer and Joiner provided one hit each of the Longhorns.
Josh Tierney started on the mound for the Longhorns before being relieved by Jayden Joiner in the third.
Joiner pitched four strong innings allowing no earned runs while giving his team a chance to win. The battery kept the Blue Devils silent on the base paths by keeping runners from getting
into scoring position. Howard, Bud Icenhour and freshman Stacy Greer each had a web gem defensive play in the game.
“I thought we should have won the game,” said Johnson County’s legendary coach Pete Pavusek. “We had several opportunities to score but couldn’t get the key hit when we needed to. Our pitchers threw well but you have to make plays in the field, and unfortunately, we made a crucial error that prevented the game from being tied. Overall I was pleased with the way our young team battled.”