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How They Played the Game

Falling a win short no loss for 2015 Cougars
Carpenters right-hander Will Combs make his pitch during the Blount County Middle School Baseball Tournament championship series. Photo by Jolanda Jansma

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

Way to keep your head, Max Bowers.

They blew the call.

There was no malice in the Carpenters’ first baseman being incorrectly ruled out on a sixth-inning double play Monday night.

Bowers came to the plate with no one out and teammate Jordan Tarver at second with the Cougars trailing Alcoa, 7-0, in the championship game of the Blount County Middle School Baseball Tournament.

Bowers drove a smash through the left side, the infield umpire hopping out of the way just in time. Behind him, Tarver, breaking for third, was struck in the left heel.

Dead ball. Tarver is out. Bowers is awarded first base.

Only that’s not what happened.

The ricochet from the ball striking Tarver kicked up into the glove of the Tornado shortstop who, correctly, didn’t assume the dead-ball out and threw to first to put out Bowers.

You waited for Bowers to vent his frustration.

He didn’t.

You knew at any second Carpenters coach Dek Melton was going to blow his top.

Nothing like it happened.

Bowers returned to the dugout. Melton stayed cool.

This season would never be about one bad call, or even a loss in the championship game.

Melanie Combs, Larry Melton, they did you proud.

Alcoa went home with the title an inning later by same 7-0 margin. Dek Melton first credited the Tornadoes with having played a better game. The Carpenters’ skipper then relayed what had driven the Cougars to the championship game this season. A baseball game, you’re reminded, even one with so much riding on it, is still just a game.

Combs, whose son, Will, pitches for the Cougars, and Larry Melton, Dek’s father, were both diagnosed with cancer prior to the season. The Cougars responded by dedicating the season to Melanie and Larry and dug in.

It was tough coming up one game short of the championship, Dek Melton said. Carpenters beat back elimination with an 11-9 win over the Tornadoes on Friday, the Cougars first rallying to tie with a two-run sixth. Will Combs and Cade Bochtler got the runs home, Bowers the game-tying, RBI-single.

“I didn’t have a hit yet, so I really wanted it,” Bowers said.

Two innings later, Bowers doubled to left to push home Tarver for the eventual winning run.

When fortune favored the Tornadoes on Monday, Dek Melton was ready.

“We’re absolutely crazy proud of this team,” he said. “They’ve battled all year long.

“This season, we’ve been fighting for more than a trophy. We love baseball, but we also realize there are more important things in life. I have no doubt (Larry and Melanie) are still proud.”

Just a game?

Maybe not.
The 2015 Blount County runners-up Carpenters Cougars: Max Bowers, Brandon Coggin, Josh Long, Jordan Tarver, Kyler Love, Seth Cooper, Will Combs, Jake Lequire, Trevor Ulland, Jared Tarver, Douglas Ver-Valen, Cody Prestridge, Brentley Riddle, Thomas French, Cade Bochtler, Christian Clanton, Ethan Garland, Jake Kerr, Bo Price

Coaches: Dek Melton, Zack Breeding, Jordan Ridenour, Scott Bowers

Athletics director: Andy Walker

Carpenters principal and field guru: Mike Crabtree

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