The Cherokee Bluff baseball team had chances to compete in both games of a Thursday night doubleheader against Region 7-3A-leading Fannin County. But errors and missed opportunities doomed the Bears (12-10, 6-6 Region 7-3A), as they fell 6-1 in the first game and 7-2 in the night cap.
“We just didn’t play very good defense,” Cherokee Bluff coach Jeremy Kemp said. “Fannin’s a good baseball team. You can’t give them extra outs and we did, and they made us pay for it.”
The Bears got off to a quick start in the opening contest, loading the bases in the bottom of the first inning and earning a walk to bring in the first run of the game with only one out.
But Cherokee Bluff could not capitalize on the opportunity beyond the one score, leaving three runners stranded to start the game off.
“Tonight we left a lot of people on base and couldn’t get the big hit when we needed it,” Kemp said. “Just one big hit would have changed the whole game. We had plenty of opportunities and we didn’t take advantage of them.”
The Bears committed a pair of errors in the third inning, with the second — a mishandled grounder in right field — leading to two Fannin County runs. Cherokee Bluff’s offense cooled down as the game progressed as well, managing just one hit over the final four innings as the Bears never really threatened the Rebels for the remainder of the contest.
The nightcap was much of the same for Cherokee Bluff.
Fannin County’s Matthew Shirah ripped a line drive to deep center in the top of the first inning, and a fielding error turned the hit into a three-run, inside-the-park home run, putting the Bears behind early.
“That’s what happens when you make errors and give them extra outs,” Kemp said.
Chandler Shope brought in a pair of runs for the Bears in the second with a double to center of his own, but that hit ended up being the last Cherokee Bluff would have for the rest of the night. Rebels reliever Carson Beavers entered the game in the fifth inning and was unhittable over the final three, striking out nine to finish the night off.
And while the Bears could not salvage a win Thursday night, Kemp said the doubleheader was valuable experience for a first-year squad that is still coming into its own.
“We’re a young team that went toe-to-toe with a top 10 team in the state, Fannin County is,” Kemp said. “Our kids are getting experience, and they’re seeing they can play with these guys. I think we’re getting better every day, even though we struggled from time to time. I’m excited about the rest of the year.”