KODAK, Tenn. – The East Tennessee High School Baseball League gave players like Gage Newsom an opportunity to recoup some lost time after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic cut short the 2020 TSSAA season back in March.
Saturday’s league championship game provided Newsom with a chance to earn some redemption.
Newsom pitched six shutout innings and went 2-for-3 at the plate with a RBI triple as the Cavaliers from Sevier County won the inaugural ETHSBL title with a 3-0 victory over the Vikings from Bristol at Smokies Park.
A standout at Sevier County High School, Newsom did not have fond memories of his school’s 2-1 loss to the Tennessee High Vikings in the semifinals of the 2019 Region 1-AAA tournament. In a crucial juncture of that game, Newsom was doubled off second base after leaving too early on a flyball that was caught by Cole Presson.
No such calamity occurred for Newsom this time around against the bunch from Bristol.
“This feels great,” Newsom said.
The Vikings (14-5) got at least one runner on base in six of the seven innings on Saturday, but couldn’t scratch across a run. They grounded into three double plays, including one to end the game against reliever Ben Wilcoxon.
Newsom struck out five and was a groundball machine.
“He had great command, was in the [strike] zone the whole day,” said Vikings coach Preston Roberts, who also leads the baseball program at Tennessee High. “The old cliché of good pitching beats good hitting – that’s a great example of it. He did a great job of keeping us off balance. Not much more to say than hats off to him and hats off to that infield defense.”
Evan Mutter singled in the first inning for the Vikings, but was left stranded.
Cole Presson hit a one-out triple in the third inning, but didn’t score.
Mason Johns led off the fifth inning with a hit, but nothing came of it.
Brayden Blevins and Bryce Snyder collected consecutive one-out singles in the sixth inning, but Newsom induced a 4-6-3 double play to end the threat.
“I came out there having great confidence in my team,” Newsom said. “I was just spotting up the ball, letting them put it in play and let my team do the work. This was more of a team effort than anything.”
The Vikings posted a 6-5, nine-inning win over the Cavaliers in Game 1 of the ETHSBL World Series on Wednesday, but the Cavs bounced back with a 6-0 win in Game 2 as Brady Scott and Jace Henderson combined on a five-hit shutout.
Games 3 and 4 on Thursday were canceled due to rain and the decision was made to make Saturday’s showdown a winner-take-all affair.
The Cavs took it all as the Vikings failed to score a run in their final 14 innings of the summer.
There is a reason, after all, why Sevier County finished with a 16-2 record in the ETHSBL.
“[Newsom] was a good, quality pitcher,” Snyder said. “He’s like some of the guys that we will see constantly in our conference throughout the  season. We did struggle a little bit, but we competed our tails off.”
Mason Johns suffered the loss on the mound for the Vikings, despite striking out nine over 3 1/3 innings. He also went 3-for-3 at the plate.
A first-inning RBI single by Wilcoxon, Newsom’s RBI triple in the second inning and Collin Shannon’s fifth-inning RBI double accounted for the Cavaliers’ runs.
Tennessee High had a 2-2 record when the pandemic shut down the season nearly five months ago, but the Vikings made the most of a second chance in the ETHSBL.
“It’s been a great experience,” Roberts said. “We allowed our younger guys to play half the games, allowed our older guys to play half the games. Once we got to the postseason, we really focused on our older guys and tried to win this thing. We treated the regular season more developmental and then really tried to hit our stride in the playoffs. I just really appreciate the guys buying in.”
Presson, Snyder, Blevins, C.J. Henley and Garrett Embree earned spots on the all-league team as the Vikings claimed the Eastern Division championship. The Bristolians were averaging 8.4 runs per game before the Cavs held them in check over the course of the final two contests.
Snyder, Henley, Evan Mutter and Gregory Harris are among the Vikings hoping for a fun fall after a successful summer as the TSSAA has given the go-ahead for football teams to begin preparation for the upcoming season.
“It’s starting to shift over into football mode,” Snyder said. “For sure.”
Cavaliers 3, Vikings 0
Cavaliers 110 010 000—3 7 1
Vikings 000 000 0—0 7 1
Newsom, Wilcoxon (7) and Shannon. Johns, Blevins (4) and Embree. W – Newsom. L – Johns. S – Wilcoxon. HR – none.
firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter:@Hayes_BHCSports | (276) 645-2570
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!