MURFREESBORO – Both teams from Huntingdon and Cornersville High had their chances in their TSSAA Class A baseball state tournament opener Tuesday.
When the game was done, Cornersville had taken advantage of more opportunities with a 3-1 victory over the Mustangs.
“I told them we didn’t need to lie to ourselves and say we’re right where we want to be at this point,” said Huntingdon coach Alan Eubanks minutes after the loss. “But we are where we need to be in that we have a chance still, and it’s up to us how we respond to this.”
The first missed opportunity for Cornersville came in the top of the first inning when the Bulldogs loaded the bases with no outs.
“When we did that, we felt pretty good about that and having a good start,” said Cornersville coach Ben Putman.
Cornersville missed that opportunity as the Bulldogs’ next three batters hit into infield groundouts, but pitcher David Looney gave them a quick boost by quickly striking out Huntingdon’s first three batters to get out of the inning.
“That was important to respond that well to the top of the inning we had,” Putman said. “Because if they’d scored, it could’ve just affected our guys mentally going into the second inning.”
Eubanks said his team wasn’t deterred by Looney’s quality start on the mound.
“We knew coming in they had a quality No. 1 pitcher that would be hard to hit,” Eubanks said. “So we knew we had a chance to get a look and get a little more used to his pitching.”
After that it was a pitching duel with no one getting on the scoreboard for the first four innings. Huntingdon got out of innings after getting into jams a couple times, while Cornersville did a more consistent job of keeping runners off the bases.
Cornersville got on the scoreboard with a pair of runs in the top of the fifth when Aaron Fox hit a two-RBI single with the bases loaded.
Huntingdon got one of the runs back when Kade Pearson hit a single to centerfield to bring Brandon Barmore home.
Cornersville got an insurance run in the top of the sixth when Tate Lowery hit an RBI single to first base that was difficult to handle.
Eubanks feels good about the Mustangs moving on from the loss.
“We’ve got a deep pitching rotation that I wouldn’t hesitate going with any of our top five guys at any point,” Eubanks said. “We’ve dealt with pressure this year, and we’ll try to deal with pressure again tomorrow.”
Putman is confident in his guys but knows pitching depth isn’t something that can help his team as much.
“We’ll throw our No. 2 guy tomorrow, an eighth-grader, and we need to win that game to keep us in the winner’s bracket and give ourselves the best shot we can have,” Putman said.
Brandon Shields, 425-9751