SEYMOUR – Joe McCord wanted redemption.
A day after squandering a starting opportunity in Alcoa’s win over Smith County, the opportunity presented itself again for the Tornadoes’ second inning in the bottom of the seventh inning against Unicoi County at Seymour’s Don Doyle Field on Saturday.
Four at bat after teammate Nathaniel Hartless tied the Devils with an RBI single that scored Brennan Duggan, McCord connected on an 0-1 pitch that crossed the gap between first and second base and in right field before the Alcoa dugout emptied into the field and circled McCord as he ran through first in a 4-3 finish on the final day of the Playing For A Cure tournament.
“(Friday) I missed a starting opportunity so it was redeeming to go out and get another one,” McCord told the Daily Times. “I took a big hack there (on the first pitch) and missed, but on the next pitch I just felt like I was going to get it. It was a good day.”
Alcoa (2-1) finished the afternoon with 11 hits and two RBIs, but neither was bigger than the two Hartless and McCord found in the bottom of the seventh.
The Tornadoes entered the frame behind 3-2 after Lucas Slagle’s RBI single to retake Unicoi’s lead in the fifth and had come empty with at least one runner in the first, second, fifth and sixth innings. Devils pitcher Alex Green didn’t make it easy for them in his full game, throwing eight strikeouts.
Alcoa pulled away, however, coming from behind twice to equalise. McCord’s winning RBI was the only time the Tornadoes led.
“I was really happy with the way they fought,” Alcoa coach Steve Dunn said. “Of course Joe is a new player for us, he’s a young player. He had some big hits today, including the game-winner. I’m really happy for him and happy for our baseball team.
After three scoreless first innings, Unicoi (1-3) took a 2-0 lead in the fourth on a classic bunt laid by Green along the third base line to tackle a Nicky Satterly run. That play was followed by Tristan Duncan’s RBI short term to score Green.
Hartless responded big to start the bottom half of the fourth, hitting a solo home run from the flagpole past the left field wall to pull Alcoa into a 2-1 run. The Tornadoes tied it with a base-loaded walk drawn by Dalton Fiegle that brought Colt Whaley home and tied it, 2-2.
“(Hartless’ home run) was huge, he’s obviously very talented,” Dunn said. “He can hit the ball well. This 2-3-4 from our lineup is really going to have to carry us in terms of RBI. He’s just one of those guys who’s going to have to produce for us if we’re going to be successful.
Hartless didn’t just produce at home plate Saturday. He took over pitching duties in the fifth and finished with six strikeouts and pulled Alcoa out of a goal-laden jam in the sixth.
Prior to his entry, second Dawson Sweetland, the left-handed starter, went four innings and threw seven strikeouts. He also left the Devils empty-handed after loading the bases in second.
“Dawson Sweetland did an amazing job for us,” Dunn said. “He’s one of those kids that I didn’t expect to be here so quickly and do this, but he stepped in and gave us some really good shots and today he did a really good job on the mound. He’s a mentally strong kid and of course (Hartless) hung in there. It’s a great win for us.”
Follow @ByNoahTaylor on Twitter for more from sportswriter Noah Taylor.