Hagen Wilkey already had pitched a no-hitter this season, yet Red Bank teammate Blake Winstead told the senior he had every intention of one-upping him.
It was high school banter among teammates, but Winstead came within one errant throw of making good on his boast as the Lions eliminated East Ridge from the District 6-AA baseball tournament, 7-0.
The junior threw a no-hitter of his own and missed a perfect game on an infield throwing error.
Hixson began the four-team double-elimination part of the tournament with a 9-3 victory over Tyner. The Wildcats are scheduled to play Central while the Lions face East Hamilton today at Hixson, weather permitting.
Winstead struck out 15 of the 22 batters he faced, walking none.
"It was a great job. That's the Winstead I needed all year," Red Bank coach Trey Hicks said. "He pitched in the district championship last year, the substate and the first game of the state tournament. He had been struggling a little with control and confidence.
"Like I told the guys, that's a big game. You lose this one and you go home. He came out and threw a legit no-hitter."
Winstead did it despite have just a 2-0 lead through the first four innings.
"It's all him. He threw every pitch -- fastball, curveball, changeup -- for strikes," Hicks said. "Hopefully he can build on that confidence-wise because we need him later in this tournament, but tonight he gave us what we needed."
Said Winstead, who two-hit the Pioneers earlier this season: "Definitely my best performance so far."
Wilkey was right there with the support, cushioning the Lions' two-run lead with a towering three-run homer -- his 15th of the year -- in the fifth inning.
Hixson finally got to and surmounted a hump, reaching .500 and securing its 10th win with the victory over Tyner, with whom they had split during the regular season.
Gill Brown got the pitching win as the Wildcats put seven hits and four Rams errors to good use in breaking open a scoreless game through three innings. Parker Tyo was 2-for-4 with three RBIs and Andrew Rollins was 2-for-3 with two RBIs.
Tyner's Ahmad Johnson homered.
"This was a big game for us because of the 10 wins," Wildcats coach Shane Roberson said. "I've told the guys all year the season is practice, but it all comes down to what you do in the district tournament."
A year ago the Wildcats lost 17 games by 10 runs or more. This year there were just two, and five of their losses came in the seventh when they were either ahead or tied.
"The kids showed mental toughness and didn't fold when Tyner made a little run there late," Roberson said.
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 ...