Seemingly headed nowhere against Sullivan South, the Cougars put together a pair of late rallies to overcome a four-run deficit and claim a 6-4 victory over the Rebels in opening-round play of the District 1-AA tournament.
Parker Mumpower pushed Central over the hump with a bases-loaded triple in the top of the seventh inning, erasing a 4-3 South lead.
“This is Central’s first district win in about 10 years, since 2008 or 2009,” Colley said. “So yeah, I guess this is (his biggest victory ever). Especially considering it was against a really good and well-coached team like Sullivan South. Those guys are really good.”
Fifth-seeded Central (8-11) appeared down and out when Chase Bowery rocked a solo home run to right-center for a 4-0 South lead in the third inning.
Not so fast, Colley kept insisting to his club.
“We kept telling the kids, ‘This game’s not out of reach, not out of reach,’ ” Colley said. “Hitting is contagious and our bats finally woke up in the fifth.”
CAPPING THE COMEBACK
Central scored three times in the fifth when seven straight batters reached base, but fourth-seeded South (11-14) still led 4-3 entering the top of the seventh.
Rebels starter Cory Williams found trouble, however, by walking Issac Hood and Blake Lucas to open the frame, prompting a pitching change.
“Cory threw eight straight balls and you can’t do that late in the game, especially with the lead,’’ said veteran South boss Anthony Richardson. “He threw well otherwise, probably good enough to win. But give Central credit for hanging in the there. It was a good ballgame.’’
Two batters after the pitching change, Mumpower lined a 1-1 Gavin Parker offering to the wall in left-center for his three-run triple.
“I was thinking this is my time to put my team on my back and come up big out here,’’ Mumpower said. “I hardly felt the ball hit my bat — it was awesome.”
Colley wasn’t surprised.
“Bases loaded and nobody out, there’s no one I’d rather have up there than Parker Mumpower,” Colley said. “He’s a four-year starter who’s as cool and collected as you can possibly be.
“This may have been his biggest moment ever, but it’s nothing new for him.”
The go-ahead knock saddled Williams with the defeat.
South rocked Central starter Noah Vaughan early, but the senior right-hander adjusted his game plan and held South scoreless the last four innings.
Bowery had an RBI single in addition to his home run and Williams mashed a run-scoring double off the wall to help South gain its 4-0 lead.
“Noah did a fantastic job keeping his composure against some big ol’ corn-fed boys over on that other team,’’ Colley said. “We started going a little more with off-speed stuff and it slowed their bats down.”
A senior who allowed nine hits in going the distance, Vaughan knew he had to keep his cool.
“First off you got to have a team that’s going to stand behind you like ours,’’ he said. “We talked and decided to change things up a little, to go with more curveballs and changeups. I had to keep the ball down — and not mess up.”
Central plays top-seeded Unicoi County on Saturday at 2:30. South takes on Happy Valley at 5 in the double-elimination tourney.