By TONY STINNETT, Courier Sports Editor
BAXTER - Cannon County's late-season surge finally came to an end but not without a fight.
The upset-minded Lions pushed second-seeded Upperman to the brink of elimination before bowing out of the District 8-AA Tournament with a devastating 6-5 setback against the host Bees.
Cannon County (9-22-1) won seven of its final 11 games to end the season, but it came within a whisker of extending its season at least one more game before Upperman stunned the Lions in dramatic fashion.
"Losing that game the way we did was our season in a nutshell," Lions coach Justin Fann said. "One of the things we did the last 11 or 12 games is let district teams know next year is a year Cannon County will be reckoned with. We got the attention of teams in our district the last few weeks."
Cannon County dropped its tournament opener against Upperman, 6-1, but came back to oust York, 10-5, in an elimination game Monday (May 5). After Upperman was upset by DeKalb County, the Lions faced the Bees once again in an elimination game for both.
Cannon County carried a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the seventh before the Bees came alive with a three-run uprising that eliminated the Lions.
"We were one out away," Fann said. "The kids battled and we had a great chance. We just didn't finish the game."
Junior shortstop Nick Vassar led the Lions at the plate with a 3-for-4 effort that included two runs scored and one RBI. Trent Bragg capped an outstanding tournament with a 1-for-3 effort that included a double and two RBI. Preston Campbell was 1-for-3 with two RBI and Jake Todd was 1-for-2 with one run scored.
The game was tied, 1-1, when the Lions struck for three in the fourth. Bragg started the inning with a double down the left-field line. Tucker Francis was hit by a pitch and Jake Todd walked to load the bases. With one out, Campbell delivered a single to plate two runs and the Lions picked up the third run on Vassar's two-out single.
Upperman pulled to within 4-3 in the fifth, but the Lions added what appeared to be a big insurance run at the time when Bragg drove in Vassar in the top of the seventh to push the lead to 5-3.
Freshman Sam Schau pitched five strong innings and left the game with a 4-3 lead. Schau scattered four hits over his five innings of work. Sophomore Austin Martin came on in relief and worked his way out of a sixth-inning jam.
The middle of Upperman's order proved to tough to handle in the seventh.
The game was tied, 5-5, with two outs and the winning run on second but the Bees got the clutch hit to avoid extra innings for the second straight game.
“We put ourselves in position to beat a good team on their home field but we fell short,” Fann said. “The team has fought hard this season.”
Lions 10, Dragons 5
Trent Bragg delivered the early jolt with a second-inning grand slam and Cannon County rolled to a 10-5 win against York in an elimination game.
The home run was the first of Bragg's career and continued a solid season at the plate. Bragg finished the game 1-for-5 but his one blast was catastrophic to York.
Jackson Mason started the second with a double and scored when Austin Martin reached on a two-out error. That error left the bases loaded and brought Bragg to the plate. He provided a 5-0 lead with one swing of the bat.
The Lions added two in the third and were never threatened on their way to the win.
Nick Vassar and Jared Judkins had multi-hit games for the Lions. Judkins was 2-for-4 with one RBI and two runs scored. Vassar was 2-for-3 with one run scored. Austin Martin, Schau, Bragg and Mason each had hits for the Lions.
Jake Todd earned the win on the mound with another strong outing. Todd went four innings, scattered five hits and allowed just two earned runs. Austin Martin pitched the final three innings for the save.
"Jake was the most improved pitcher on the whole staff," Fann said. "He did a good job for us in the second half of the season and was a big part of our success."
Bees 6, Lions 1
Cannon County's offense had a tough time against Upperman ace Lefever in the tournament opener. The Lions managed just three hits in the 6-1 setback.
Jackson Mason was 1-for-3 with a double. Jake Todd was 1-for-3 and Trent Bragg was 1-for-3 as the trio accounted for all of the hits. Tucker Francis scored the Lions' only run when he crossed the plate following Todd's hit in the fourth.
Francis took the tough loss on the mound. He went the distance but allowed just two earned runs.
He was victimized by uncharacteristic errors. The defense had played superlative baseball during its late-season run but miscues hurt