Offensive struggles plagued Tullahoma as the Wildcats were swept by Columbia Central this week, including being no-hit in a 3-0 loss on Wednesday in Columbia, before dropping a 4-2 matchup at home on Thursday.
“We just got cold at the wrong time,” said THS Head Coach Phil King. “It’s not like we’ve been an offensive juggernaut the last week. When we beat Columbia Academy and Blackman last week, it was timely. We had really good pitching … They’re [Columbia] the best team that I’ve seen.”
Jaden Hamm was electric for the Lions in the no-hitter on Wednesday, striking out 10 batters in the victory. Tullahoma only reached base twice in the loss, both times coming from Jared TeVrucht, who worked a walk and then was hit by the pitch.
“I thought we had some pretty quality at-bats against him,” King said. “It wasn’t we had 15 or 16 strikeouts. We hit some balls hard and their center fielder [Jack Quinn] is really good. He ran down five or six balls that were hit in the gap.”
Hollis Fanning also looked strong on the mound, taking the loss for the Wildcats in the series opener. In six innings pitched, Fanning allowed three runs, only two of which were earned, while giving up four hits and a pair of walks, and striking out seven batters.
Columbia jumped on Tullahoma early though, as JJ Kercado hit a solo home run to left field in the bottom of the first inning, giving his team a 1-0 advantage. In the second, Columbia tacked on another run, this time on an error by Tullahoma, putting the Lions in front 2-0.
Caden Czajka scored the final run of the night for Columbia, reaching on a base hit to start the bottom of the fifth inning. Luke Flatt drove in Czajka with a two-out base knock into right field, as the Lions pulled ahead 3-0.
On Thursday night, Tullahoma again got another quality start on the mound, this time from Matt Marcel. In 6.1 innings pitched, Marcel allowed four runs, three of which were earned, on nine hits and a pair of walks, while striking out three batters.
Landon Carey came in to pitch the final .2 of an inning for the Wildcats, surrendering a pair of hits and a walk, while striking out two batters.
Columbia again struck early for scores, putting up a run in the top of the first inning. Bryce Symlar singled to start the contest, and later scored when Hamm grounded into a double play, giving his team a 1-0 edge.
The Lions added to that lead in the third, when Symlar reached base on an error. He later came around to score when Kercado singled into left field, giving Columbia a 2-0 advantage.
It took until the third inning for Tullahoma to get in the hit column, as Grant King lined a single into right field. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they couldn’t answer with a score until the bottom of the sixth inning.
Rhett Birdsong singled with two outs, and an error on the same play allowed him to reach second base. Two pitches later, Tommy McCullough lined a shot into center field that allowed Birdsong to score, cutting the Wildcats’ deficit down to 2-1.
Columbia answered right back with a pair of scores in the top of the seventh. Quinn led off the inning with a single, before Flatt followed with a one-out double. Hamm added a single, plating Quinn, before Tank Gordon got a hit to bring home Flatt, making the score 4-1.
Tullahoma attempted a comeback, getting a run back in the bottom of the seventh. Kobe Burks was hit by the pitch with one out and stole second base. TeVrucht then followed with a line drive single into left field, plating Burks, to cut the score to 4-2.
That was all that the Wildcats could muster though, as Cam Hargrove flew out, and King struck out to end the ballgame.
Following the district matchup, Tullahoma (10-7, 3-5) took part in the Demarini Classic in Knoxville. The Wildcats faced Farragut and Hardin Valley on Friday, before taking on Maryville and Bearden on Saturday. As of press time, the results from those four games were unavailable.
Tullahoma is then scheduled to open up a District 8-AAA series against Lincoln County on Tuesday. The Wildcats will travel to Fayetteville on Tuesday, before hosting the Falcons on Wednesday. On both days, first pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.