A season of up-and-downs, new experiences and overcoming obstacles ended for Tellico Plains on Monday, May 13.
After finishing in second place in the District 4-A tournament last week, the Bears faced host Wartburg Central in region tournament action on Monday. Despite keeping pace with the Bulldogs for the majority of the contest, Tellico ran out of gas and dropped the game 5-3, seeing its season come to an end.
“We played hard this year,” Ware said. “Our boys grew up. I’m proud of them. And I’m hard on them and I stay on them but they fight. They’ve got heart. I’m proud of them, and, like I told them, our next year starts today. Our next year starts today and we’re going to work and get better.
“It’s all that we can do.”
Wartburg scored the game’s first run in the bottom of the third inning, but Tellico responded with RBI singles by Kolton Stakely and Gaige Fairbanks to take a 2-1 lead during the top of the fourth.
The Bulldogs produced three runs in the bottom of the fourth to go ahead 4-2.
During the top of the fifth inning, Ben Edwards drove home Jace Lynn with a single to cut the deficit to just one run, but another Bulldog run in the bottom of the sixth and Tellico’s inability to score in its last chance at bat, despite getting runners on first and second with two outs, sealed the loss.
Ty Hamilton started on the mound for Tellico, pitching five innings and allowing five hits and five walks. He also recorded five strikeouts.
Ethan Fairbanks relieved Hamilton to start the bottom of the sixth inning, pitching Tellico’s final defensive frame of the season. He allowed one hit and one walk, and notched one strikeout.
Bears not wasting any time, will work this summer
Despite the season-ending loss, Ware’s pride in his team was apparent when the dust cleared. The Bears entered the year with no seniors on the roster and a first-year head coach, but were able to finish as runners-up in District 4-A and notched a region tournament appearance.
“They had to answer the question (of) if they were going to grow up or not and they grew up, every one of them,” Ware said. “I had leadership from everybody. Everybody stepped up when times counted. We still made some young mistakes. I can’t say much, just (that) I’m proud to death of them.
“I love this group. They’re a good group. They work hard and we’re going to start preparing for next year tomorrow.”
That preparation starts immediately, as Ware said Tellico will continue to practice and compete during the summer months.
“We’re going to work this summer,” Ware said. “We’re going to actually have a summer program. We’re going to play some games during the summer. We’re going to do some workout dates, Tuesday’s and Thursday’s we’re going to work. Just get them excited.
“The town of Tellico needs some excitement about baseball and I think this group right here is going to give it to them. I really do.”