Courier Sports Report
Cannon County shocked Livingston Academy for a doubleheader sweep in Woodbury Wednesday (March 27) to maintain a share of the District 8-AA lead one-third of the way into the league race.
The Lions (3-5, 3-1) secured the district sweep with stellar pitching, solid defense and timely hitting against a Livingston Academy team that has reached the Substate in each of the last two seasons.
“It was a good all-around performance from our team,” Cannon County coach Tony Stinnett said. “Both starting pitchers (Nick Vassar and Dalton Bell) were outstanding. They have been consistent and they were in control against a good-hitting Livingston lineup.”
The Lions won the opener, 3-2, when birthday boy Brian Duggin delivered a two-run double to rally Cannon County in the fifth.
Trailing 2-1, Duggin rifled a shot into left field, scoring Dalton Bell and Brent Duggin (also enjoying his birthday) with the tying and go-ahead runs in the bottom of the fifth. The Wildcats had broke through with two in the top of the inning to take a 2-1 advantage.
Sophomore Nick Vassar (2-0) pitched his second-straight complete game against district competition. Vassar scattered three hits and struck out a career-high nine batters. He blanked Livingston Academy for four innings before they broke through for a pair of runs in the top of the fifth.
Cannon County took a 1-0 lead in the third when Chase Gunter walked and eventually came around to score on a Brian Duggin groundout. Brian Duggin drove in all three Lions’ runs in the first game.
Brent Duggin led the Lions with a 2-for-3 performance, including a run scored. Trent Bragg also added a base knock for the Lions.
Cannon County 4, Livingston Acad.1
Cannon County completed the sweep with a 4-1 win against the Wildcats in the nightcap as Dalton Bell turned in a gutsy and determined effort for the Lions.
Bell (1-0) fashioned a complete-game, three-hitter and struck out six to lead the Lions to the sweep, but that was just part of the story.
Bell took a line drive off his left knee in the fifth but was determined to stay in the game. He pitched the remaining two innings, striking out two and limiting the Wildcats to no hits.
“I was sore but I was determined to stay in the game,” Bell said. “I felt fine and it was a big district game for us. We are playing well and with a lot of confidence. It feels good to get off to a good start in the district race.”
Livingston Academy took a 1-0 lead with a run in the second inning. From there, the game turned into a pitcher’s duel.
Bell dueled Livingston’s Oliver inning for inning until the Lions finally broke through with a run in the sixth to even the score. Bell walked to open the inning. Jared Judkins entered as a courtesy runner for the pitcher and promptly stole second. He moved to third on a groundout and scored on a heads-up running play on a wild pitch.
The Lions broke loose for three runs in the top of the seventh to distance themselves. Bell had a RBI in the inning. Nathan McGuire, Tucker Francis and Chase Gunter scored in the inning.
Bell sit the Wildcats down in order to seal the win.
“Dalton was a warrior on the mound and at the plate,” Stinnett said. “He competed on the mound. He’s been consistent in all three starts and has just pitched in some bad luck. He really stepped up for his team in a big game.”
The Lions maintained a share of the district lead after facing two of the league’s top teams from last season - Smith County and Livingston Academy. The Lions split with the Owls, who reached the Class AA state semifnals last year. Livingston Academy reached the Substate.
“There’s a lot of baseball left against quality teams,” Stinnett said. “Our team is playing with confidence and realizes the importance of district games.”