WALKER VALLEY 5, BEARDEN 4
Walker Valley 003 020 0 -- 5 11 1
Bearden 200 020 0 -- 4 6 2
WP: Matthew Simmons, 7 Ks. LP: Ty Hill. 3B: Lane Thomas, Derek Lance (B); 2B: Logan Longwith, Caleb Longley (WV). Other highlights: Bobby Towne 2-3, RBI, run; Chris Caffrey 3-4, RBI, run; Caleb Longley 2-3, 2 RBIs, run. Logan Longwith RBI (WV). Records: Walker Valley 29-10; Bearden 29-13.
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- Apprently, state tournament experience is overrated.
Making the program's debut in the Class AAA Spring Fling baseball tournament, Walker Valley continued to play with the steady confidence and poise of a veteran team Wednesday, holding off perennial power Knoxville Bearden, 5-4.
It was the second straight one-run win for the Mustangs, who have 12 underclassmen on the roster, and against two programs -- Bearden and Germantown -- that have combined to make 12 previous state tournament appearances.
"We knew we would see some really good teams over here, but the kids also knew that we're a pretty good team ourselves," Walker Valley coach Joe Shamblin said. "They've done a good job of believing they belong over here and playing solid ball.
"We've had a few breaks along the way, but good teams take advantage of those, too."
The Mustangs (29-10) will play today at 4 p.m. EDT at Oakland against the winner of Bearden vs. Germantown.
Senior left-hander Matthew Simmons went the distance, allowing six hits, while striking out seven. Four of those hits came in a two-run home half of the first by Bearden, to claim an early lead.
Walker Valley rallied for three in the third to take a lead it would not give up. Josh Poole led off with a double and Jared Broome followed with a bunt single. Bobby Towne's single drove home the Mustangs' first run and Chris Caffrey tied the game with a single to left. Caleb Longley's single then plated the go-ahead run.
"We still feel like we haven't really played our best yet, but we keep finding ways to win the game," Simmons said.
The Mustangs added two more runs in the fifth, insurance that proved to be needed later. Longley's double to center drove in one run and Logan Longwith followed with a double down the left-field line for a three-run advantage.
Bearden then countered in the bottom of the inning with two runs, but Simmons struck out three of the last six batters he faced and allowed just two balls to be hit out of the infield to wrap up the win. The most nerve-wrecking moment came in the seventh when a Mustangs' error allowed the tying run to reach first with just one out. But Simmons followed with a strikeout and a coaxed a flyout to second to end the game.
"He never got rattled the whole day," Shamblin said of Simmons. "Even when they got a runner on and things could have gotten tense in the seventh, he just went right back to work and did what he needed to do to get the job done and end the game."
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...