By Jonathan Pleasant
Fans were stunned as the Longhorns were handed their toughest loss in recent memory at the hands of the Elizabethton Cyclones. Even getting the rare opportunity to play at home didnt seem to help much once Elizabethton got rolling. Having struggled with and overcome the Cyclones last season expectations were high for another tough battle this year. Yet even with the train wreck that the game eventually turned into, JCHS coaching staff tried to keep an optimistic view.
If you dont hit you dont win, said head coach Pete Pavusek. Thats about all. I wish I knew the answer, we just try to prepare and prepare, and coaching and showing how to do it the right way. Well hopefully come out of it and get some rhythm here and get some games under our belt. Weve just got to start playing and hopefully get better by the end of the season.
The game actually got off to a good start with Jacob Henson landing a ball in center field to take first base. A double from Daniel Helm pushed Henson on through to give the Longhorns their first and only run of the night, and a third hit from Ryan Mahala might have resulted in another RBI for Helm had it not been for a coupe of quick outs.
Defensively Johnson County was able to hold Elizabethton back for the first inning, with pitcher Jon Vannoy gaining one of two strikeouts on the evening, but beginning with an Elizabethton four-run sweep in the second the game took a rapid and drastic downhill turn. A combination of both errors and strong hits set Johnson County back, and even with a second strikeout from Vannoy, the game began to fall apart.
Now down 4-0, the Longhorns worked hard in their turn at bat, but with two early strikeouts against them, even a base hit from Payton Fenner couldnt get Johnson County started. More errors and an Elizabethton double pushed the score to 1-6 at the beginning of the third, and with this scenario repeating itself all the way to the 6th inning Johnson Countys chances continued to dwindle.
The Longhorns managed a few more good swings, including a double by Andy Woods that plowed its way into left field, but none resulted in an actual run. A hit from Blade Hampton allowed one third base advancement, but otherwise Johnson County simply didnt make any progress.
The final nail in the coffin came during the sixth inning when a total breakdown in the defense allowed the Cyclones to get an amazing 10 runs before they were put out. With errors once again playing a role, the bases just continued to load up over and over, giving every single batter in Elizabethtons lineup the chance to get a run. By then Jacob Henson had taken over the pitching mound, throwing out two strikeouts to bring the game to a close, but at 20-1 no one on the home team was very happy with the results.
Although the defeat might not have been quite this bad, Coach Pavusek did point out that early season flops dont necessarily equate a bad end of the season run. If you look back to last year we had a lot of question marks and we didnt start off real hot, Pavusek said. We didnt even know Ryan Mahala was going to pitch for us. We were scrambling around trying to find a pitcher for opening day. There was a question mark at shortstop. We didnt know if Judd was going to be able to handle it. But, everything started coming together and we started winning a few games. We got on a roll and started getting good pitching. We just played well toward the end and thats what you need to do.
Final Score: Johnson County 1, Elizabethton 20
By Jonathan Pleasant