It was another successful weekend for the Chattanooga State baseball team — even more so in light of the opponent — but Sunday's result kept it from being sensational.
After sweeping nationally ninth-ranked Walters State and breaking the teams' first-place tie in Saturday's TCCAA doubleheader at Chattanooga State, the 18th-ranked Tigers lost 11-5 in the series finale -- after taking a 3-0 lead in the first inning and maintaining the margin at 4-1 after two.
Chattanooga State (28-9, 13-5) has a one-game lead for the regular-season title that this year comes with hosting the four-team district tournament that will include two Georgia teams, but the Tigers have three league series remaining -- two of them away from home. They have won all six series so far.
"We came into it wanting to win the series, and we did that," coach Greg Dennis said, "but when you have a chance to sweep and don't, it leaves kind of a sour taste in your mouth."
With only one extra-base hit, the Senators (25-12, 12-6) stitched together a four-run third inning and a six-run seventh, both started by No. 9 batter Michael Smith, who also made a diving catch in center field. Big hits for Walters (25-12, 12-6) in the third were Matt Harrell's ground-rule double into the tarp along the left-field fence and RBI singles by Jared Allen and Dustin Woody.
Reid Matthews and Allen worked RBI walks in the seventh, when Colin Bennett contributed a two-run single and Allen scored when a pickoff throw grazed his neck at second base and continued into center field.
"We've got to win this one. That was our mentality," said Allen, the former Polk County star who doubled in his first at-bat. "When you lose the doubleheader, you've got to win the last game. But, yeah, we were a little nervous when we got down 3-0 at the start."
Zach Lance had three of the Tigers' eight hits, and Jared Wilson had two in his first two at-bats. His leadoff single in the first inning was followed by a Jordan McDonald walk, an opposite-field RBI single by Casey Mannion, an Aaron Wright walk and runs on a strikeout wild pitch and a Read Walden groundout.
"I thought we played really well yesterday," Dennis said. "We pitched it extremely well at times, and we played really, really stellar defense. [Our offense] may not have been up to its potential, but we were opportunistic.
"I thought today we might have swung it a little better, but we didn't do the other things as well. They had two innings where they loaded the bases with no outs, and you can't escape those situations against a good team. You just can't stop competing -- on the mound, in the field or at the plate -- and we kind of lulled a little bit today."
Contact Ron Bush at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6291.