The Elizabethton Cyclones returned from their trip to the Grand Strand of Myrtle Beach during their Spring Break realizing they had missed out on some golden opportunities for victories on their trip.
Coach Joe Nix's troops were looking to get off on the right foot in a key Three Rivers Conference game against Sullivan East at Twins Field on Tuesday evening and did so behind the clutch pitching effort of Cory Richardson and a solid effort defensively to take a 3-1 win over the front-running Patriots.
Elizabethton flipped the scoreboard in the bottom of the first inning after holding East to a three up and three down top of the first.
With one down, Kasey King drew a walk. Catcher Thomas Miller also worked East pitcher Shane Sturgill for a second straight base on balls.
Tony Ward followed by hitting the ball a mile high that fell between the shortstop and center fielder for a single loading the bases.
Sturgill managed to fan Bryan Mullins for out number two before C.J. Bowling used patience to record a RBI by walking to force in King.
A wild pitch from Sturgill allowed courtesy runner Wes Montgomery to easily score from third base. East managed to get out of the inning without any further damage as EHS took the 2-0 advantage.
Neither team could work any magic in the second frame as Ian Ollis smacked a lead-off single while Sturgill and Andrew Godsey walked to load the bases before the Cyclones bore down to get a fly-ball, third out from Craig Utsman to end the threat.
The Cyclones meanwhile went three up and three down while maintaining the 2-0 edge heading to the third.
Each team had a scoring threat in the third that didn't materialize into any runs on either side.
Aaron Boling was pegged by a Richardson pitch and was followed by walks to Tyler Richardson and Austin Glover before the Cyclones managed to work out of the bases-loaded jam.
The Patriots repaid the favor in the bottom of the inning when Elizabethton loaded the bags as well thanks to King reaching on an error by East's right fielder and Ward reached via a fielder's choice when the East shortstop bobbled the ball for an error to allow King to safely reach second.
Mullins roped a single to fill the bags. Sturgill worked hard to get out of the inning fanning Bowling and then getting Taylor Edwards to fly to center for the third out of the inning.
East received base hits from Utsman and Boling in the top of the fourth with two outs before Andy Camper struck out to end the frame.
The Cyclones went quietly in the bottom portion of the frame with Sturgill facing the minimum number of batters.
Glover laced a single for East in the fifth but that would be all she wrote for the boys from Bluff City.
Elizabethton tacked on a run in the bottom of the frame to extend the lead to 3-0.
With one out, Miller roped a single and was chased home by a Ward double that reached the left-center field fence for the RBI.
East managed to break into the scoring column in the top of the sixth.
Sturgill reached via an error with Godsey following up with a walk. A sacrifice bunt from Utsman advanced the runners a bag.
A fielding error allowed Boling to reach base as well as sending Sturgill home for the first run on East's side of the scoreboard.
A sweet little 4-6-3 double play allowed the Cyclones to escape further damage and maintain a 3-1 lead heading to the bottom of the frame.
The Cyclones were retired one-two-three in the bottom of the sixth to set up the all-important seventh and final at-bat for East.
Things got a little interesting once again for the Cyclones in the top of the final frame.
After retiring the first Patriot batter on a fly ball to left field, Ollis scorched a single to bring life to East.
Richardson coaxed Glover into a strikeout looking on a wicked curve ball before hitting Brian Casaday with a pitch to place the tying run at first base.
This time however, the Cyclones slammed the door shut as fittingly Richardson struck out his counterpart Sturgill to bring a close to the contest and give the Cyclones a large boost with Unicoi Co. coming to Twins Field today.
Richardson out-dueled Sturgill to gain the win. In a complete game effort, Richardson allowed one run, totaled six strikeouts, five walks, and gave up five hits. He also pegged two East batters.
Sturgill also went the distance giving up three runs with six strikeouts, three walks, and giving up four hits.
"We had a two hour practice yesterday and worked mainly on our defense," said Richardson. "I knew I had to get the ball put into play and let my infield and outfield play.
"When Coach (Nathan) Fritz told me I was getting the start, I just started to focus on what I needed to do. When I stepped on the field today, I still had all that focus. I really think this game was a turning point for us today."
Coach Nix was pleased with his pitcher's effort as well as his team's ability not to lie down and give up like they have in game's past.
"Cory hit his spots well and made them hit his pitches today," added Nix. "This is an early momentum shifter for us.
"We haven't found the way to win. Once we start believing in ourselves, we will be okay. We attacked the ball a lot more today defensively. We made a couple of miscues late, but we didn't let them hurt us.
"The double play we made was big, and Ward getting that double to score the run really helped too. If we can just keep thinking positive and everyone starts believing and playing together, this team can go places."
The Cyclones stand at 3-5 overall, 1-1 in conference play.
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Sullivan East 000 001 0 -- 1 5 2
Elizabethton 200 010 x -- 3 4 2
Sturgill and Utsman. Richardson and Miller.
WP: Richardson. LP: Sturgill.
2B: EHS 1 (Ward). HBP: East 2 (Casaday by Richardson, Boling by Richardson).