By Tim Chambers
Tomahawk Sports Editor
Johnson County Middle School celebrated the first week of spring with an “Autumn-like” effect on Friday afternoon at Bob Kirksey Field.
Autumn Lewis ripped a walk-off RBI double in the seventh inning to lift the junior high Longhorns past Cloudland 9-8 in an all-important Little Watauga Conference game.
Lewis’ game-winner scored Audrey Saver who was running for Hailey Rider after she had led off the inning with a single. The Highlanders had battled back from an early 7-1 deficit to tie the game with two runs in the top half of the seventh.
Head coach Greg Reece noted that that the game might go down to the wire.
“This was your typical Johnson County-Cloudland game,” said Reece. “One team jumps out to a lead, then the other team battles back and it comes down to the last at-bat.”
Reece added that the game was filled with big plays when he said, “Hailey Cox caught a deep fly ball and doubled off a runner in the sixth. Lewis and Rider had the two big hits in the seventh inning to win it. Hannah Fritts pitched a great game for us, and those runs she gave up were unearned. We were minus Jayla Gregg, so the girls did a great job of picking one another up in her absence.”
It appeared as if the game might be a blowout in the early going.
Johnson County scored four times in the first inning to go up 4-0,
Cox led off with a triple and scored on a base hit by Fritts. Faith Walsh provided a key base hit and scored as did Fritts. Haley Rider’s sacrifice bunt scored Sydni Potter who had walked. But the Horns weren’t finished.
The added three more runs in the third to increase their advantage to 7-1.
Fritts got things started with a triple, and Sarah Rider ended the inning with a run-scoring single. From there the Highlanders would begin chipping away including scoring four times in the fifth inning to cut the deficit at 7-6 after getting a solo run in the fourth. The big blow was a two-run triple by Madison Gibson and RBI single from Taylor Hicks.
The Horns went up 8-6 in the sixth inning only to watch the Highlanders tied the game in the seventh on RBI base hits from Kendal Birchfield and Billie Ellis.That set the stage for Lewis’ game-winner in the bottom half.
“Coach Hicks and I joked on and off through that game about every time Cloudland and JCMS play it turns into a nail-biter,” said Reece. “We had a lot of success early offensively, and were able to find late enough in the game when we absolutely needed it to pull out the win.”
Walsh, Fritts and Sarah Rider had two hits each to lead the Longhorns. Lewis, Cox and Haley Rider collected one apiece.
Taylor Hicks went 3-3 to pace the Highlanders while Gibbs was 2-4 with two runs scored.
Haley Rider earned the win on the mound in relief
The Longhorns are currently 3-0 on the season but have had to postpone four games. They’ll try and get in a game at Sullivan North on Thursday.
Cloudland 010 140 2 – 8 8 5
Johnson Co 403 001 1 – 9 9 4