SWEETWATER — There is a reason that Tellico Plains calls Bo Elliiot “Sarge.”
Maybe it is because he is enlisted in the Army reserves and will report in June.
Maybe it is because they know he can step up when he is needed.
That is exactly what the senior catcher did to seal a 7-6 win over Sweetwater on March 16.
Ahead by a run, Elliot took the mound against a Sweetwater team that had scored six unanswered runs. The senior struck out two of the four batters faced to earn the save and get Tellico Plains to 2-0.
Sweetwater trailed 7-0 heading into the bottom of the third. Levi Presley knocked a line drive out to left field to score Jayce Upton, sparking a Sweetwater rally.
“In the chances we had there, we battled and we fought — we showed signs of character. When you are not ready to play from the first pitch, sometimes you don’t get what you want,” Sweetwater Coach Travis Watson said.
Tyler Harris came to the mound for the Bears, replacing starter Ethan Fairbanks who finished with three strikeouts and gave up two hits. Harris inherited the bases loaded with one out, but started out ahead 0-2 in the count before Kade Correll slapped a ground ball to right field, scoring two more runs.
“Kade Correll is a little sparkplug. He had a big hit there to right field. He can really get us going offensively. He is a tough out,” Watson said. “Anytime to bunt is a great time to start a rally. We always preach that and we told him if it is there on the right side then take it. This is a team that is going to have to grind and get bunts down to move runners. We feel like the top and middle of our lineup can do some damage if we get the bottom going.”
The Bears’ junior pitcher then settled in, however.
“You just have to work through it. Pressure is going to happen, it is part of the game,” Harris said. “We are a tough team. We are going to play hard ball and do what we need to do. Sweetwater is a rival game, so it makes this pretty special.”
Harris responded with back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning.
“I’ll be honest with you, that’s the guy that I will be leaning on this year to complete our pitching staff,” Tellico Plains head coach Heath Ware said of Harris. “If he can come in and do a job like he did and throw strikes … He has been struggling a little bit in our scrimmages with throwing strikes. Just no confidence and I just built him up. I finally told him that he has to do the job, I am relying on him.”
Harris finished the night with five strikeouts through 4.1 innings, pitching out of jams in multiple innings.
“What better game to throw him out in here, in a rivalry and heat of battle to see if he can do it, and he did it,” Ware said. “He stepped up just like a junior should and showed me something — showed me a lot. I am proud of him — love that kid.”
Tellico Plains did their offensive work in the first three innings against Sweetwater’s Blaine Watson.
Jace Lynn started with a lead off single followed by another single from Gaige Fairbanks. Watson then walked the next two batters, going down 1-0 before striking out Ethan Teague.
“I think we were on our heels early on in the first inning. Tellico came out and hit us in the mouth. Hats off to them, they played from the first pitch out and they deserved to win the game,” Travis Watson said.
Cameron Coleman and Kaiden Hicks followed with back-to-back singles — adding two more runs.
“Don’t waste pitches,” Ware said. “(I said) go out there to hit, and when it is there hit it. I think we came out aggressive and we started to get lax with the lead, but Sweetwater is going to hit and Sweetwater is going to battle. Plus it is a rival game and this is a good team. Sweetwater is always solid around, (Watson) does a great job with them.”
In the second, Gaige Fairbanks singled to the outfield, scoring Lynn and Ethan Fairbanks before being thrown out advancing to second — giving Tellico Plains a 5-0 lead.
Lynn singled on a 2-out ground ball in the bottom of the third, adding in two more runs for the Bears.
After that, Sweetwater settled in on the mound. Tellico Plains got runners in good positions, but couldn’t bring them home.
“Their pitchers did a good job there — throwing strikes,” Ware said. “Hats off to them, they bowed their neck, threw strikes and got the right pitches. I’m not going to take anything away, those guys did their job too. They were better at that part.”
Zach Ezell had Bears on second and third with no outs and managed to get out of the inning unscathed.
Presley did the same one inning later, striking out Lynn and Ben Edwards.
“We pitched out of a bunch of crucial innings. Levi had second and third with no outs and pitched out of the inning and that was huge,” Travis Watson said. “Our pitching gave us a chance out of the bullpen, that was the difference. We just did not get that one extra hit and made some baserunning blunders. It is such a mental game and you have to have yourself ready to play from the first pitch — I’ll take responsibility, maybe I did not have them ready to play.”
Presley finished with three strikeouts and one hit through 2.2 innings.
“He has a lot of experience — he has been here for four years. That’s the thing, he pitches as if he does not know the score which is great out of a bullpen pitcher. He pitches like it is 0-0, and he allowed the offense the chance to get back in it,” Travis Watson said. “We are trying to get more guys on the mound as early as it is. There are a couple more guys we want to see, but our upperclassmen should carry the load on the mound in district games. Obviously, Blaine has a chance to fill one of those roles as well.”
Myers, a sophomore catcher, singled on a fly ball, scoring Correll in the bottom of the fifth and the Wildcats made it a one run game in the bottom of the sixth when Littleton’s line drive single scored Upton with two outs.
“Hats off to them boys for coming back. It ain’t nothing we did — they battled and played better ball then we did last half,” Ware said. “I think they took advantage of our lax. We got so relaxed there and they took advantage of it and they started hitting balls. Ethan started getting a little tired, first outing for him. They stayed on the ball and hit it well. We folded a couple times.”