For the most part, Cedar Bluff senior pitcher Rickey Pendley did that against Class 2A, No. 6 Sand Rock on Tuesday, and the Tiger offense scratched enough runs across to help Class 1A, No. 10 Cedar Bluff earn a 6-2 win.
Pendley tossed six innings, giving up single runs in the first and the third, but settled in the rest of his outing. He finished with four strikeouts. Reliever Jake Mintz worked a scoreless seventh, including a pair of strikeouts, to earn the save for the Tigers (9-4).
“Rickey did good job of going out and attacking hitters, getting ahead early,” Cedar Bluff coach Taylor Talbot said. “It just seemed like he was ahead of every hitter. I know he had several first-pitch outs. I don’t think he threw more than 70 pitches. He did an excellent job today.”
But things didn’t get off to the best of starts for Pendley. Sand Rock (6-5) leadoff hitter Austin Chambers doubled to left in the first and later scored on a single to right by shortstop Ethan Jimmerson.
Cedar Bluff tied the game at a run apiece in the bottom half of the first inning. Third baseman Levi Mintz and first baseman Curtis Abernathy walked to bring right fielder CJ Gilreath at the plate with one out. Gilreath delivered a single to right to score Mintz to tie the game.
Sand Rock starter Perry Stevens prevented further damage by retiring Dalton Cosby on a pop out to first and striking out Blake Terry for the final out of the inning.
After Pendley retired the Wildcats on three consecutive pop outs to right, Gilreath came up big for the Tigers at the plate again. This time, he delivered a two-run double to left as part of a three-run second, giving the Tigers a 4-1 advantage.
Gilreath led Cedar Bluff at the plate by going 2-for-3 with three RBIs.
“I think CJ did a good job at the plate,” Talbot said. “We squared a lot of balls up that were caught, so it was finally good to get one to fall, but the thing I was proud of was we ran the bases hard. That got us going. Any time you can get a lead on a good opponent, that’s big.”
Sand Rock managed to push a run across in the top of the third. Right fielder Isaac Arnold singled to lead off the inning. He later scored on Jimmerson’s single to center to make the score 4-2 Tigers.
Jimmerson finished the game going 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Arnold and Chambers both went 1-for-2.
“We hit it good early, but I thought their pitcher adjusted and I didn’t think our hitters adjusted as well,” Sand Rock coach Paul Hawk said. “We couldn’t put a string of hits together. We’d get one here and one there, but if you don’t put them together, you’re not going to score. We left some out there, and anytime you do that, you’re disappointed. That’s something we need to improve on to get better.”
Cedar Bluff added single runs in the fifth and sixth off Wildcat reliever Chambers. Catcher Austin McCullough, who went 2-for-3 in the game, belted a run-scoring single to center in the fifth. Shortstop Devante Dixon scored a run on a passed ball in the sixth after reaching on an infield single.
Stevens suffered the loss for the Wildcats. He worked two innings, giving up four runs on four hits with three walks and a hit batsman.
Both teams now prepare for the Cherokee County Tournament, which begins on Friday at Gaylesville.
Cedar Bluff awaits the winner of Friday's 4 p.m. game between Cherokee County and Gaylesville. Sand Rock opens tournament play against Spring Garden on Friday at 6:30 p.m.
“I think it’s very important to be playing good baseball going into the county tournament,” Talbot said. “That’s a source of pride for the community. These kids look back on that, and it’s something special to them. It’s good to get a win rolling into there, going in on a little bit of a high spot. We just hope we carry that momentum into this weekend.”