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Longhorns defeat Cavaliers in pitchers duel.

When JCHS and Holston usually get together in baseball, a lot of the times it's a slug fest. On Friday, the game had a little different feel to it.
Following a three-run home run in the first inning by Harley Reece that put JCHS ahead 3-0, the game became a pitchers duel, but the homer pretty much was the difference as the Longhorns won 5-1 at Backer Park in Damascus.
It was a tough beginning for Holston as Reece brought in Judd Hammons and Jacob Henson on a ball hit over the fence and then JCHS carried the arm of Sawyer Ward on to victory.
Ward allowed just one run and five hits.
“I wanted to come out here and pitch a good game and get the win,” Ward said.
Ward used a variety of pitches to throw the Holston batters off and he also helped himself at the plate with a single and two walks.
“I'll take that performance any day,” Ward said.
The home run by Reece allowed Ward to settle down and to pitch a great game for JCHS.
The Longhorns definitely were fired up after the Reece home run and Ward couldn't have written it up any better.
“It felt good to have that cushion,” Ward said. “There's nobody else I would want up there than Harley in that situation.”
Ward did pitch very well, but Holston's Kenny Owens also had an admirable effort.
Owens went six innings and after the first inning, gave up five hits.
“I was a little nervous because it was my first start of the season,” Owens said. “We'll get better. We've got good talent back this year.”
One player that hit real well for Holston was T.J. Widener, who had two hits and the team's only RBI of the game.
Holston won the Hogoheegee regular season last year and may be on its way to winning it again this season, but the Class A school doesn't play as many schools as big as Johnson County.
“I think we'll get better as the season goes on,” Owens said.
Said Holston head coach Adam Moore: “The way Johnson County swings the bat, one mistake can get you in trouble in a hurry. We hung a pitch up and he took the rest of it and that was the difference, but I was pleased with how we battled.
Austin Humphrey and Jacob Henson had the other two RBIs for JCHS.
The Longhorns came into the game averaging almost eight runs per contest, so to hold the Longhorns to five is a great credit to Blevins and to the Holston field.
“We know this bunch is going to hit the baseball and I was pleased that we were able to hold them off-balance with a wicked curve and keeping them away and it's a good sign that Kenny Owens got stronger as the game wore on and I think as the confidence grew that helped him the most,” Moore said.
The Longhorns might not have expected to be in as big of a fight as they were, but in the end JCHS did what it needed to do to win.
“It was a lot closer than I wanted it to be,” JCHS head coach Pete Pavusek said. “We left a village on base. Maybe we'll come around.”
Pavusek thought Ward's pitching was the difference for the Longhorns.
“I thought Sawyer did a great job,” Pavusek said. “He struggled there a couple of innings, but he just kept working out of it when I thought they were going to have big innings. He's a gamer and he wants to win.”
Though Pavusek saw some things that need to be fixed, he knows this team could be a good one.
“I keep waiting for us to break out,” he said. “All these base runners we leave on means we're going to have to work on some situational batting practice and putting some base runners out there and work on knocking them in.”
The Longhorns were thrown off guard a little bit when they crossed the state line when they found out most of the bats they brought were illegal in Virginia.
Composite bats are now banned in Virginia and in a lot of states, though they are still legal in Tennessee.
Pavusek doesn't have a problem with them being banned, but thinks it should be uniform in all states.
“They need to get all the states together especially since we play several schools from Virginia and I know Unicoi County goes to tournaments in South Carolina and they need to get everybody on the same page,” he said. “Whatever they're going to do they need to go ahead and do it.”
For JCHS, Jacob Henson had a double and a single, Harley Reece had a home run, Judd Hammons had a single and moved to third on an error, Austin Humphrey had two singles and Sammy Hampton had a single.
For Holston, T.J. Widener had two singles while Cody Hawkins, Cody Blevins and Kenny Owens each had singles.
Thursday's Game
Unicoi County 13
JCHS 5
The Longhorns looked prime to pull off the upset Thursday, but then a tidal wave of runs ended those hopes.
When Danny Herman hit a home run to cut the JCHS deficit to 6-5, the Longhorns seemed ready to defeat Unicoi County for the first time in five seasons.
The Blue Devils however, exploded for seven runs in the sixth inning and went back to Erwin with a big Three Rivers Conference win.
Danny Herman had three hits, Sawyer Ward and Harley Reece had two and Mark Jennings, Austin Humphrey and Ryan Mahala each had one.
JV Report
The JCHS Baseball Team is undefeated after four games and it added three more wins last week following a 12-3 victory over Holston and 9-1 and 12-0 wins over Mitchell County, N.C.
The Holston game was played in front of a good crowd at Backer Park and Andy Woods stepped up and threw the game of his life. In four innings, he kept Holston at bay and struck out five batters.
“Friday night was a great start by sophomore Andy Woods,” JCHS Assistant Coach Nicholas Perkins said. “Andy Woods is the most improved player throughout our entire baseball program. He's a hard worker and he's a great young man. It was well deserved. I'm excited about his improvement.”
Chad Hodgkiss and Daniel Helm also had monster games, going three-for-four as Helm had 4 RBI and Hodgkiss also had an RBI. Jacob Henson went 2-for-3 with an RBI, Andy Woods 1-of-2, Tristan Robinson went 1-of-2, Ryan Smith went 1-of-3 and Ryan Mahala went 1-of-4.
The two Mitchell games showed a lot of character by JCHS as the Longhorns did not return from Damascus Friday until almost midnight and then had to be back at their own field around 10 a.m. for the games against the Mountaineers.
The adjustment was tough, but was handled very well by the Longhorns.
“Day games after night games are tough,” Perkins said. “This helps you to be mentally tough. It's something that's not easy to do for all high school baseball players.
The Longhorns received outstanding pitching performances from Jacob Henson and Ryan Mahala, with Mahala pitching a no-hitter.
“Jacob Henson and Ryan Mahala shut down Mitchell County,” Perkins said. “Any time they're on the mound we have a chance to win.”
Perkins also thinks Judd Hammons is going to be a great player for JCHS and he's showing signs of that both on JV and varsity.
“Jacob Henson and Judd Hammons are two very exciting baseball players and Ryan Mahala is very good. We have other very good young players like Ryan Smith, Daniel Helm and Andy Woods,” Perkins said.
The Longhorns are not only 4-0 this season, but are 12-4 in their last 16 JV games dating back to last year.
“We'll find out how good we are Thursday when we travel to Tennessee High,” Perkins said.
Stats for Mitchell County games
Game 1
Ryan Mahala, 1 of 2, Jacob Henson 2 of 3 1 RBI, Ryan Smith 1-of-2, Andy Woods 1-of-3,Tristan Robinson 1-of-3, Chad Hodgkiss 1-of-4, 1 RBI, Judd Hammons 1-of-4.
Game 2
Jacob Henson, 3 of 3 3 RBI, Blade Hampton 2-of-3, 2 RBI, Chad Hodgkiss 2-of-3, Daniel Helm 2-of-3 1RBI, Andy Woods 1-of-2, 1 RBI, Bobby Taylor 1-of-2, Judd Hammons 2-for-4, 1 RBI, Ryan Mahala 1-of-2, Ryan Smith 1-of-2.