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Big inning propels ’Toppers on to sectionals

By JEFF BIRCHFIELD • May 14, 2019 at 1:17 AM

JOHNSON CITY — All Science Hill needed was one big inning.

The Hilltoppers got it in the fourth against Jefferson County to defeat the Patriots 7-3 in the Region 1-AAA baseball semifinals Monday night at TVA Credit Union Ballpark.

Behind five solid innings from starting pitcher Landon Slemp, the ’Toppers (26-11) advanced to the sectional round of the TSSAA tournament for a second straight year.

Science Hill (26-11) will host Tennessee High in Wednesday’s Region 1-AAA championship game at 6 p.m. with a sectional home berth also on the line.

“Landon settled in and pitched a great game,” Science Hill coach Ryan Edwards said. “He got us through five innings and then our bullpen did what they’ve been doing all year. Our hitters stayed relaxed and didn’t press. They made some good adjustments and stayed with it.”

Jefferson County (16-9) took a 2-0 lead in the first inning.

Tanner Woods, who led the Patriots with his 3-for-4 day, had an RBI single, followed by Casey Allen with an RBI double. Down 2-0 with one out, Slemp didn’t panic and got out of the inning.

He gave up just one more hit over the next four innings. Garrett Gleason came on for one inning of relief, followed by Drew Honeycutt, who gave up one run in the final inning.

“I had to just pound the strike zone,” said Slemp, who aided his cause by going 2-for-2 and driving in two runs. “I’m not the type of guy to overpower somebody. I just go in there, throw strikes and let our defense work.”

Caleb Marmo did some of the dirty work with a pair of spectacular catches in the center field. His feats included a diving, sliding catch in the third inning. Marmo also added some offensive firepower, going 2-for-4 with a double, an RBI and two runs scored out of the leadoff spot.

Jackson Hill had a two-run single and Jack Torbett added an RBI single in the decisive fourth.

The Science Hill rally started with Connor Hyatt’s single, followed by an error in right field on the next at-bat.

“Connor Hyatt led us off with a big hit in that fourth inning,” Marmo said. “It got the whole dugout fired up and we just kept on hitting it. We hit the ball long, short, whatever it took to get the runners over.”

Allen gave up seven hits and five runs over 3 1/3 innings to suffer the loss.

Looking ahead to Tennessee High on Wednesday, the teams split during the regular season, while Science Hill defeated the Vikings in Bristol for the District 1-AAA championship.

After Monday’s game, however, the ’Toppers weren’t looking ahead. Instead, they celebrated reaching a major goal for the season.

“It feels good to make it back to the sectionals,” Marmo said. “I knew we could do it. We came together at the end of the season and did what we needed to do.”

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