Not without a fight

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Chiefland’s last-minute rally nearly stuns No. 1 Trenton in district baseball tournament

By Sean Arnold

The Chiefland baseball team proved itself a plucky bunch this season with its collection of comeback wins and its youthful competitive fight.

In the District 1A-7 semifinal round last Tuesday, the Indians, who returned just one starter from last year’s state finalist and district champion club, once again weren’t in the mood to go away quietly against a more experienced team.

After being held scoreless and trailing since the first inning, CMHS assembled a ferocious rally in the bottom of the seventh to nearly pull off a stunning comeback against No. 1-ranked Trenton, before falling 5-4 to the Tigers.

Top-seeded Trenton (23-1) went on to pick up a 4-2 win over Branford in the championship game, and played host to Pierson-Taylor Wednesday for the regional semifinals.

Chiefland, which won the district title last season, finished 10-10 overall.

With the team down to its final two outs and trailing 5-0, sophomore center fielder Wyatt Hammond singled to right-center and then advanced to second on a balk. Sophomore second baseman Payne Parnell, after being denied a base on a hit-by-pitch, unleashed a stand-up double to drive in Hammond for Chiefland’s first run.

Starting pitcher Casey Lawson was intentionally walked, putting runners on first and second, with fellow senior Lonnie Hinote subbed in to run for Lawson at first base. A hit-batter boarded shortstop Seth Thomas to load the bases, setting up a two-run single by third baseman Keegan McLelland, cutting the deficit to 5-3.

Senior Jose Guerrero, who led the Indians in batting average this season, grounded up the middle to score Thomas on an error, making it a one-run ballgame. Still with one out, Chiefland attempted to squeeze bunt home McLelland’s run, which was represented by pinch runner Jaron Feagle. But Feagle was tagged out in a rundown near the plate after a failed bunt attempt.

Trenton pitcher Trent Simmons, who reentered the game in the middle of the inning, recorded his ninth strikeout to close out the game with Guerrero waiting at second after a steal.

The Tigers took advantage of Chiefland miscues to score most of their runs. Back-to-back singles by Randy Fuller and Wyatt Langford helped TMHS to a 2-0 lead in the opening frame. An infield error in the third with two outs led to another Trenton run in the third, and then a couple more infield errors to go along with a pair of hits, a walk and a hit-batter conspired to give the Tigers their final two runs in the fourth.

In five innings of work, Lawson allowed two earned runs, eight hits and two walks against seven strikeouts. Hammond surrendered one hit, no walks and no runs in one inning of relief.

Simmons yielded four hits and two walks and no runs in six innings, while reliever Michael Smith was charged with the four earned runs.

McLelland, who tallied a couple of RBIs, and Lawson, an Eastern Kentucky University signee, each went 2 for 3 with a walk to lead the Indians at the plate. Junior Zach Bloom, who homered in the district quarterfinal win over Dixie County the previous day, finished 1 for 2 with a walk.

Chiefland managed to board runners in every inning, but three of those times were with two outs. In the third, however, Parnell and Lawson (double) reached to lead off the inning, before three straight groundouts foiled the scoring chance. The Tigers turned a double play in the fifth to squelch another Indian opportunity.

“We missed some opportunities early in the game that obviously became bigger as the game went on,” CMHS coach Kyle Parnell said. “And we helped them out a couple times on defense.

“At the same time, we had the chance to let the wheels run slam off of it, and we kept playing hard and kept it close to give ourselves a chance to get back in it at the end, so I’m proud of our team and the way they played and got back in that thing.”