CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Matthew Simmons wasn't really hoping for an at-bat in the bottom of the eighth inning.
There were two out in the scoreless game, each a strikeout victim, with teammate Jared Broome camped on second after reaching on a walk and stealing a base and teammate Bobby Towne on first after getting hit by a pitch for the 18th time this year.
Tullahoma coach Brad White then relieved right-handed flamethrower Jordan Sheffield, a nephew of former major league standout Gary Sheffield, in favor of Justus Sheffield, Jordan's brother and a hard-throwing lefty.
"There wasn't anything good going through my mind," the left-handed-hitting Simmons said. "I hadn't done very well against left-handers."
The Mustangs' No. 2 hitter came through with a single through the right side, scoring Broome with the winning run and sending the Mustangs to the school's first state baseball tournament after seven fruitless tries in the sectionals.
"The guys did what they had to do in order to win against a great pitcher," Walker Valley coach Joe Shamblin said after the 1-0 victory. "We came up with a big hit at the right time, and we played good defense."
Jordan Sheffield struck out seven. Of the 28 batters he faced, only one got a ball out of the infield, and that one was tracked down by his brother, then in center field.
Walker Valley's fans had been anxious most of the week after Towne, who just signed this week with Cleveland State, was lifted from the region final with a pain in his right (throwing) shoulder. He wasn't actually cleared to pitch until Friday morning.
"I think it was a pinched tendon. The doctor put me on some strong anti-inflammatory [pills] and I was icing it and doing [electronic stimulus]," Towne said.
He said the thought of pitching against one or both of the Sheffields, who have statewide reputations, never entered his mind.
"Not really," he said. "I just saw the people in the stands -- and they just kept coming in. I always like to pitch well for the folks at home."
He got defensive support all night, but two plays in particular were noteworthy. First baseman Caleb Longley plucked a line drive and threw quickly to third to double up Sebastian Charboneau, who tripled to right to open the third inning. Then in the top of the eighth, Broome leaped high in the air to snag a sizzling shot headed for extra bases
Six of Towne's eight innings were limited to three batters.
"He's been our man all year long," Shamblin said. "The only bad thing about him is that he's a senior."
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...