Adding to the confusion Saturday was a last-minute change in sites. Just as Gate City and Sullivan South were to set to play, a hole was discovered in left field — the result of a ruptured water line.
Both teams loaded up and headed several miles to South, yet Gate City still was the home team.
After four innings, the Blue Devils found themselves in a different kind of hole — down 11-4 — but went down swinging in a 14-7 loss.
“It’s been a long week for us,’’ Gate City coach Shannon Carter said. “We came over here looking for good competition and got it. Our young kids did a great job. South is strong. We hit the ball but didn’t put enough together.’’
South coach Anthony Richardson felt it was a successful day for both schools.
“We needed to play and Gate City did, too,’’ Richardson said. “We got some timely hits. We have three games before the district tournament starts and must find more pitchers if we intend to be playing on down the road.’’
Jackson Richardson, the second of three South pitchers, was credited with his first win. Starter Justin Strong, unable to grip the ball, left the game with a finger injury in the second inning. Reid Mathews finished up.
Gate City assigned a pair of inexperienced pitchers to face the Rebels. Jake Kendrick (0-2) exited in the third inning, handing the ball to Austen Arnold. Each allowed five hits. Arnold struck out eight batters.
“It was time for our young pitchers to shine,’’ Carter said, “and they did.’’
Batting leaders for South (15-9) were Mathews, who went 3-for-5, and Ashton Zanoni, who was 2-for-4. Mathews, Bailee Dick, Heath Haden, Zanoni and Tyler Strong each drove in two runs.
Gate City outhit South 13-10. Dusty Clark, Luke Kirk, Wes Hughes and Aaron Stokes each got two hits.
“Gate City bunted the ball really well,’’ Richardson, South’s coach, noted.
Eight batters were struck by pitched balls.
The Blue Devils (11-3) have lost to only Northeast Tennessee teams: South, Morristown West and Elizabethton. Gate City will return to the Clinch Mountain District fray on Tuesday, playing at Lebanon. Both teams are 3-0 in the title race.
“Every district game is huge,’’ Carter said. “We hope Jordan Estepp pitches well and we have a good game.’’
South plays Monday at Sullivan Central and closes out Tuesday with a mixed doubleheader at home, taking on Tennessee High and Unaka.