SMYRNA — The Pigeon Forge Tigers have been on a roll this season, and the first round of the state tournament was no different story.
The Tigers jumped out to a commanding 8-1 lead over White House Heritage in their first round matchup, and while they would surrender five runs near the end of the game, they would close things out 8-6 and advance into the winners bracket.
The Tigers would throw five different pitchers on the mound, with Mr. Baseball award winner Riley Franklin getting the start and recording three strikeouts in his one inning on the mound. As things started to get hairy towards the end of the game, Nick Shaw would come in as relief to help record the third and final out to put an end to this one.
When asked if there was any pressure stepping onto the mound as the score started to tighten, Shaw said, “there was a little bit, I really wasn’t thinking about the pressure, I was just thinking about going in and getting the last out.”
The relief role is something that Shaw said he hasn’t really had to fill so far this season.
“Not really like that before, but I went into the bullpen thinking just throw strikes and get an out and finish the ballgame,” he said.
At the plate, Bryce Effler would play a big part in the Tigers extending their lead early, going 1-3 with 4 RBIs. Standout senior Kevin Fernandez would go 2-4 with 2 RBIs.Trevan Myers and Conner Catlett would be the only other Tigers with multiple hits, both going 2-4 with an RBI.
Dylan Loy would lead off for the Tigers and would get on base after being hit by a pitch. Loy would be brought home by a single from Fernandez, and Fernandez would score after a line drive to right field from Myers to put the Tigers ahead 2-0 early.
The Tigers would build on their lead in the second, as Catlett and Tyson McFall would both get on base. Ben Archer would come in to run for Catlett, and the Tigers would load the bases as Franklin was intentionally walked. This brought Effler to the plate, who would send one deep into center field to bring home Archer, McFall, and Franklin to extend the lead to 5-0, where it would remain at the end of the second.
The Tigers wouldn’t give up a run until the bottom of the third, where Heritage cut their deficit to 5-1, but Effler would bring in another run with a sacrifice fly in the top of the fourth to extend the lead to 6-1.
In the top of the fifth, Michael McCarter would be walked onto first base, and a double from Holt Hensley would put runners on second and third. Catlett would then come to the plate and send one into center field to bring home McCarter and extend the lead to 7-1.
Franklin would be walked again in the sixth, and would be brought home by a double from Fernandez to extend the lead to 8-1, and the Tigers would hold onto that lead through the bottom of the sixth, but the seventh inning is where the lead would start to diminish.
The Tigers would secure two outs with the score at 8-2, but White House Heritage would cut the lead to 8-6 with runners at second and third when they called on Shaw to come in and secure the final out. Shaw would throw two strikes before the batter would fly out to Franklin at first, getting the Tigers out of trouble and securing the win.
Tigers head coach Mike Guinn said that the relief spot was something that Shaw came to him and asked for.
“He came behind my back and said ‘coach let me get this last out for you’ and I said ‘can you?’ and he said ‘yeah’ and he did,” Guinn said.
Guinn aslo acknowledged that this is not the usual role that Shaw has on the team.
“No, he’s more of a starter, but I told him he’d have to relieve down here in big spots and he did right there, and it gave us a little more confidence in him for the next day. That’s huge for us because if he’s good, we’re good,” he said.
With this win, the Tigers advance to the second round where they will play Forrest on Wednesday, May 25, as they are one step closer to avenging their loss in 2021 and bringing home the gold.