By TONY STINNETT, Courier Sports Editor
Cannon County's baseball team has been in several close games this season.
This time they actually finished one.
Austin Martin hit a home run and drove in two runs and the Lions (4-19-1) rode the young arms of Sam Schau and Chandler Todd to a 6-3 victory over Moore County in the Tennessee Walking Horse Classic.
Schau earned his first career win with six strong innings of four-hit baseball. Todd pitched around a error leading off the bottom of the seventh to notch his first career save.
"We have had leads in the late innings the last two or three weeks but we haven't been able to close it out," Lions coach Justin Fann said. "We finally closed one and we did it with two freshman pitchers so that's big."
The Lions only managed four hits but three were for extra bases, including Martin's solo blast in the first inning. Jackson Mason and Tucker Francis supplied sixth-inning triples to provide two big insurance runs.
"We have let some late leads slip away and we have been working hard to fix that problem," Mason said. "This game shows that we are working to improve. We have been a good team, a competitive team, but we haven't been able to finish games with the lead so this was big for us."
The Lions provided Schau with a 2-0 cushion in the bottom of the first. Martin homered as the second batter of the inning and that seemed to inspire Cannon County.
"It was just a fastball at the letters, and I turned on it and it got out," Martin said. "It was a great momentum builder coming off some tough losses."
Cannon County wasn't done.
Trent Bragg and Tucker Francis coaxed back-to-back walks, and Bragg eventually scored to stake the Lions to a 2-0 lead.
Moore County (1-17) came back with one run in the top of the second but Schau escaped the inning without further damage to keep the Lions on top 2-1.
From there it was a pitching duel. Schau could not afford a mistake, and he didn't make any.
The rookie righty put up three straight shutout innings before Moore County finally got to him for two in the sixth inning. Schau scattered two hits through five innings and finished allowing just four hits in his six innings of work.
Cannon County came up with two big runs in the bottom of the fifth when Jake Todd and Nick Vassar scored after reaching on a fielder's choice and bunt single, respectively. That stretched the lead to 4-1.
It proved to be crucial as Moore County broke through for two runs in the top of the sixth to creep to within 4-3.
"That's where I think we really turned the corner," Todd said. "We could have expected more bad things to happen when they got to within one run. Instead, we came in and added to the lead."
Indeed they did.
Francis opened the bottom of the sixth with a triple. After Jared Judkins lined out to the shortstop, Mason pulled a triple into the gap in right center to plate Francis. Mason later scored on a first-and-third play that resulted in a stolen base for Mason.
Chandler Todd came on to close the game in the seventh and did so with great success. After a leadoff error to start the frame, Todd got the next three batters in order to notch the save.
LIONS 4, EAGLES 4
Cannon County let a late lead slip away in a 4-4 tie against Eagleville in the Tennessee Walking Horse Classic.
The Lions led 4-2 going to the bottom of the seventh, but Eagleville scored two in the bottom of the inning to tie it. Tournament rules allow for just one extra inning.
If not for the heroics of freshman left fielder Preston Campbell the Lions would have lost. Campbell threw the winning run out at the plate with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.
"That was a big-time play by Preston," Fann said. "If he doesn't make that huge play the game ends there. Our outfield has really been solid. Preston has made some great plays, Jackson has done a great job in right and Jared tracks down everything in center."
Austin Martin turned in a strong pitching effort for the Lions. The sophomore righty went six-plus innings, allowing six hits and two runs in front of a raucous student body for Eagleville.
The Lions trailed 2-0 after five, but Vassar singled and scored on Bragg's single to close to within 2-1 after six.
Cannon County came off of the deck with three runs in the top of the seventh to take a 4-2 lead.
With one out, Schau walked and Jake Todd singled to put runners at first and second. Vassar ripped a triple into right field corner to drive home both runs for a 3-2 Lion lead. Vassar scored what appeared to be a big insurance run on Martin's groundout to extend the cushion to 4-2.
Unfortunately, for the Lions, Eagleville came back with two in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game and it ended deadlocked.
TIGERS 13, LIONS 4
TIGERS 13, LIONS 0
After several competitive games during a tough District 8-AA schedule this season, Cannon County's baseball team ran into a buzzsaw against league leader Murfreesboro Central Magnet last week.
The Lions suffered a 13-4 setback in the opener and fell 13-0 in the nightcap.
"Central is a well coached team with great athletes," Lions coach Justin Fann said. "Everyone of their guys can run and run well. You give them an out and they will score two or three runs in an inning. That is what they did to us and it eventuall got away."
Vassar was 2-for-3 with a walk in the first game, including a double. Trent Bragg was 1-for-2 with two walks. Judkins, Jake Todd and Josh Williams also had hits for the Lions. Todd reached base three times in the doubleheader. In fact, Todd had the Lions only hit in the nightcap, thwarting a no-hit bid with his third-inning single