KINGSPORT — With two mighty swings of the bat, the Dobyns-Bennett baseball team erased six innings worth of offensive futility.
The Indians scored a thrilling 4-3 victory over Letcher County, Ky., at J. Fred Johnson Stadium on Friday night.
Garrett Clark led off the bottom of the seventh with a towering solo homer into the pine trees beyond the right- field fence to tie the game. Moments later and with two outs, Conner Gunn laced the first pitch he saw into left field to bring home Elijah Sutherland with the winning run.
On a 1-2 count, Clark said he was looking for something outside from Letcher County relief pitcher Tanner Sexton.
“He threw me an outside fastball, and I hit it pretty good,” Clark said. “I was watching it, but I knew it was gone. I knew I got it pretty good.”
After a frustrating night at the plate, Gunn took note of the pitch Clark deposited over the fence. When he stepped up to the plate with the game on the line, Gunn also saw an outside fastball and wasted no time slapping it into the gap in left-center.
“I’d been rolling over the ball all game and I was just looking for something to shorten my swing and hit the ball opposite field,” Gunn said. “He threw it right there and there it goes.”
The Tribe had been on the comeback trail all game after surrendering two runs in the top of the first.
The Cougars (11-5) chased D-B starter Adam Mays after he gave up three runs on four hits in one inning of work, but the Indians’ bullpen came up huge.
Josh Vestal threw two scoreless innings before Jake Bellamy came in and added three more scoreless frames to earn the win.
Bellamy had been struggling with his control, walking 16 batters in 13 innings of work prior to Friday. He issued a pair of walks in the fourth, but then settled in and retired 10 of the final 11 batters he faced.
“We’ve been working really hard with Jake,” D-B coach Mike Ritz said. “The last two times out, he’s pitched really well. For us to do well, he’s going to have to do well.
“I’m really pleased with the way he’s going.”
Even though Vestal and Bellamy put the clamps on Letcher County’s offense, the Tribe struggled to come up with much in the way of run support.
Matt Baker’s mixture of off- speed pitches had the Indians off balance for most of the game. He held D-B to two runs on four hits in six innings of work before giving way to Sexton.
“We’ve been seeing fast pitching, and he was in there throwing slow,” Clark said. “He had us all messed up.”
Aside from a pair of sacrifice flies, one by Nick Loughry and the other by Glenn Evans, D-B didn’t have much going until the pivotal seventh inning.
Once Sexton came in, however, the Indians were back in their comfort zone.
“He threw a little harder,” Ritz said. “We’re used to seeing really, really hard (pitching).”
Sean Seabolt was 2-for-3 with a triple and scored a run for the Tribe (16-4) while Loughry had three walks to go with his sacrifice fly.
MaKenzie Smith and Caleb Baker each had RBI singles in the first inning to stake the Cougars to a 2-0 lead. Chase Adams scored Letcher County’s third and final run of the game on a heads-up piece of baserunning in the second inning.
Chase Adams came home from third while Michael Watts was engaged in a rundown after getting caught trying to steal second.
D-B is back in action today at home against Knox West. The first pitch is scheduled for noon.