After suffering four straight losses, the Loudon High School Redskins bounced back Thursday to defeat the Lenoir City High School Panthers 11-4 in a charged rivalry game.
Loudon head baseball coach Jason Lambert was pleased with the win, following back-to-back district losses to Polk County High School.
“They came back with a different mentality and I was impressed with that,” Lambert said. “Throughout the day, they were eager to get back out here on a dime. I was just really happy with the way they came out. We’ve had a really big dry spell. I mean, let’s face it, we haven’t been hitting very well all year. We’ve only had three or four games where I thought we could hit, but it was good to see our guys come out in a big rivalry game like this and put it on Lenoir City.”
The teams were tied 2-2 after the first inning, and Lenoir City managed to take a one-run lead in the second.
However, the Redskins found a groove on offense in the next three innings, scoring nine runs and holding the Panthers scoreless.
Nathan Hickman led the Redskins with three RBIs, while Austyn Myers, Brody Bingham, Andrew Gibson and Jacob Mallory all recorded an RBI to give the team one of its best offensive performances of the season.
The Lenoir City-Loudon rivalry is always circled on the calendar for players and coaches of both teams, but it carries a little more weight for Hickman and Bingham.
“That game is always a big one because me and Brody went to North Middle School with all them kids,” Hickman said. “We really just wanted to show out in front of everybody because we know everybody in the stands. We just want to play good for them. It feels good and everybody always asks why we moved to Loudon. I always tell them, ‘It’s because of baseball’.”
Bingham led the Redskins on the mound with 12 strikeouts through five innings. Jacob Mallory closed the game, allowing just one hit and one run.
“Nobody had a more competitive spirit than Brody Bingham,” Lambert said. “Brody didn’t command the strike zone all that well and I think that was some of the reason why he got a lot of swings and misses. The guys walk in there, they see a lefty throwing pretty hard and they’re going, ‘I wonder if he’s going to throw a strike or I wonder if he’s going to throw a bad ball?’ He was able to stay around the zone enough to create some swings and misses and come up with some big pitches at times. His adrenaline was pumping and I had to basically pry him off the mound.”
Lenoir City head baseball coach Dusty Langley believes the game could have swung either way, but credited Loudon’s effort.
“There were a few plays that could’ve went either way,” Langley said. “We had a few go against us and it kind of takes the wind out of you. We had a few errors right there and Loudon had a few hits in that one inning. Overall, I think at the plate, we did well. Brody Bingham threw well enough to win, but I thought we didn’t approach him aggressively enough. I think we helped him a little bit at the plate. Overall, it’s just that one game. Like always, my boys get that lead and they start thinking, ‘Hey, we’re up 2-0 or 3-0 and that’s enough.’ It’s like they hit content mode. They’re still learning.”
With just four wins, the Panthers have struggled on offense.
Langley is hopeful the team will break through and learn from the loss.
“This is the kind of year you look to have a few more wins under your belt already, but it hasn’t happened,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’ve got some guys that are struggling at the plate. I think our team batting average is just a little over .200 and I spoke to Loudon’s coach and he said theirs was just over .260 or so. You’ve got two teams that are OK, but could be a lot better.”
The Redskins will travel to Sevier County High School on Friday and Saturday to take on Walker Valley, South Doyle and Kingston in the Smoky Bear Easter Classic.
“This is an important week for us,” Lambert said. “This is where we show that we can either get the offense rolling toward the close of the season into the postseason or we get exposed. I feel like, pitching wise, there’s very few teams that will have as good as a pitching staff as we do. I really believe it. The biggest question mark is whether or not we’ll be able to generate offense. Our guys have the ability to put up eight or 10 runs a game, but then the bad thing is we’ll score zero or two runs the next six or seven games. It puts a lot of pressure on our pitchers and defense, but hopefully, we’ll be able to generate something so our guys can breathe easily and enjoy the game.”