After being eliminated in the two previous region semifinals, Sweetwater baseball had no issues in the 2023 edition.
The home Wildcats quickly jumped out, scoring nine runs in the bottom of the first, and pouncing on Polk County for a 19-0 win Friday night.
“We got good starting pitching. Ryan (Littleton) was a little shaky coming out of the gate, but he kind of zoned in about the fourth or fifth hitter,” Sweetwater coach Travis Watson said. “Once he settled in and we got some runs, I think he was one catch away in the outfield from a no-hitter.”
The new bracket format in baseball for the TSSAA’s region tournament keeps Sweetwater’s fate up to Saturday’s games, but the Wildcats (20-11) are a win away from reaching the Class 2A Sectional round.
Littleton returned to the bump. The senior tossed 62 pitches — marking him ineligible for Saturday’s action. He threw 26 pitches in the top of the first — when the score was 0-0 — putting him one pitch over the limit for zero days rest.
“We just did not know (how much we were about to score). (After we scored the nine runs) he was past the point of no return.
“We saved our bullets with everyone else and are going to roll into tomorrow.”
The bats were not resting by any means. Jake Presley led Sweetwater with three RBIs while Cade Houser, Cody Myers and Blaine Watson all had two-RBI days. Landen Boyd, Kai Correll, Tucker Lorenz, Jayden Richesin and Lucas Rockholt all brought runs home.
Lorenz did so in the first at-bat, sending a ball over the left field wall. It did not take long to pile on. Littleton reached on an error before Watson moved courtesy runner Caleb Powell along with a single. A trio of one-run singles from Richesin, Myers and Houser built the lead.
Boyd was walked to load the bases, but Presley smacked a three-run double into the outfield for a 7-0 lead. Sweetwater was back to the top of the lineup with only one out recorded.
Presley scored on a balk and Lorenz scored for the second time in the frame on a wild pitch. Back-to-back wild pitches scored Richesin and Rockholt in the same at-bat for Sweetwater’s two runs in the second.
Two hit batters and a walk loaded the bases in the third inning before Watson singled to score Lorenz and Correll. Myers took a pitch to the side on a 2-1 count to score Powell.
Watson scored on an error before Boyd’s hit brought home Richesin. Sweetwater led 16-0. Two sacrifice flies added two more runs before Rockholt’s single to left field scored Boyd.
Littleton pitched 3.2 innings, allowing one hit and striking out six batters. Landen Key struck out one of the four batters faced in his cameo.
McMinn Central defeated Marion County 6-1 in the opposite semifinal. Sweetwater and McMinn Central will play Saturday at noon for the Region 2-2A Championship. Polk County and Marion County will face off in elimination at 3 p.m.
The loser of the noon game and winner of the 3 p.m. game will play for the Region 2-2A runner-up spot at 6 p.m.
Elsewhere, Union County was crowned the Region 1-2A Champions. The Patriots will host the Region 2-2A runner-up. The Region 2-2A Champions will host the winner of Pigeon Forge and Johnson County.
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