Tellico Plains hit a standstill.
The Bears were able to make it to the District 4-A tournament championship, a strong feat for a roster that features no seniors and eight freshmen. But Tellico couldn’t produce much when it got there, dropping the game 12-1 to Lookout Valley and ending the tournament as runners-up.
“Mentality wasn’t there,” Tellico head coach Heath Ware said. “We just didn’t have the right mentality. I’ve got to give (Lookout Valley) credit, though. Coach Royce does a great job and those guys can play. I don’t know if it was just being in this, they’ve never been in this situation, this kind of game before. And we’ve never had any experience in this.
“Don’t know if that might have played a role in it, but we just weren’t ready to play.”
The Yellow Jackets went up 3-0 after the first inning, then 7-0 after the second, as the Bears struggled to get the necessary three outs to end each frame.
Tellico loaded the bases with just one out in the top of the third, and Ben Edwards batted in Ethan Fairbanks on a sacrifice. Lookout Valley intentionally walked Bo Elliott to load the bases again, but a Tellico runner was caught stealing to end the Bears’ attack.
Two more Lookout Valley runs came across in the bottom of the third and a three-run homer pushed the Yellow Jackets’ lead to 12-1 in the bottom of the fourth, forcing a Tellico pitching change.
The Bears weren’t able to produce any more runs, ultimately dropping the contest and finishing as runners-up in the district tournament.
Ty Hamilton started on the mound for Tellico and lasted three and one-thirds innings, allowing nine hits and five walks while striking out two batters.
Elijah Ballew relieved him, getting the final two outs of the fourth inning and allowing one hit.
Although the loss wasn’t what his team hoped for, the experience it provides for such a young roster could prove vital for the program as it looks to progress under first-year head coach Ware.
“We’ve got nowhere to go but up,” Ware said. “We’ve got to grow. I’m playing four freshmen. We started the year with maybe 12 to 15 innings of experience on the pitcher’s mound and two guys that actually played in varsity games pretty much last year, two or three guys.
“This is nothing but good for us that we can grow from what we get. Any experience we get is the best experience for us right now.”
The Bears’ focus now shifts to the Region 2 tournament.
“This (loss to Lookout Valley) will make them a little mad,” Ware said. “They’ll step up. They don’t like losing like that. They’ve stepped up and done this. Every time they lose a game, they’ll step up and play harder next time.”