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Tullahoma pitchers Justus Sheffield and Bradley Roepke combined to strike out 16 Franklin County batters as the Wildcats beat the Rebels 8-2 in the second round of the District 8-AAA tournament Friday night.
For the Wildcats, who earned a No. 1 seed in the double-elimination tournament, it was their first game. Franklin County was coming off of a 13-9 come-from-behind win over Lincoln County in the tournament opener on Thursday.
The rest of the tournament will be contested in Fayetteville.
The Rebels fall to the losers bracket, where they will play Shelbyville at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
Columbia Central, the No. 2 seed, was a 3-1 winner over Lawrence County, dropping Lawrence County to a losers bracket game against host Lincoln County at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
Tullahoma and Columbia will play at 4 p.m. Monday in Fayetteville, with the winner advancing directly to the tournament championship game.
Also on Monday, the Franklin County/Shelbyville winner will face the Lincoln County/Lawrence County winner in a losers bracket elimination game.
Both Columbia and Tullahoma now have two days of rest before they meet. Tullahoma head coach Brad White said that staying rested and avoiding a game on Saturday was one the most important aspects of picking up Friday’s win.
“It was everything,” said White. “I thought there was more purpose, needing to win this game this year more than I did each of the last two years, just because of the way the bracket is set up.
“And you don’t want to play a hot Shelbyville team.”
Sheffield earned the start and the win, though the sophomore phenom only pitched four innings as the THS coaching staff continues to monitor his pitch count. Sheffield faced 20 batters and threw close to 90 pitches. He scattered four hits, while striking out nine and walking four.
Sheffield allowed both of Franklin County’s runs, with one coming in the third inning and one in the fourth inning.
Roepke, a senior, worked the final three innings. He faced 15 batters, gave up a pair of hits, fanned seven and walked three as the strike zone began to shrink late in the game.
With a game against the second-seeded Lions just two days away, White was glad the Wildcats were able to wrap up the Rebels with just two pitchers.
“I fully expected to use two pitchers, but you don’t want to start dipping into that third pitcher,” White said. “You do that and then you end up losing a game and you have to come back and play (Saturday) short-handed.”
Tullahoma pounded out 11 hits, including two each by Jordan Sheffield, Justus Sheffield, Jordan Moore and Garrett Caldwell. Justus Sheffield had a pair of triples, while Jordan Sheffield had a triple; and Moore, Sebastian Charboneau and Caldwell each had a double.
The Wildcats took a 3-0 lead in the first inning after triples by Jordan and Justus Sheffield. They added two more runs in the third, a lone run in the fourth and finally two more in the fifth.
By ROBERT HOLMAN, Sports Editor (firstname.lastname@example.org)