Chaz Vesser is hitting the cover off the ball this spring.
The Alcoa High School sophomore finished the afternoon 2-for-4 in a 9-8, District 4AA win over visiting Christian Academy of Knoxville on Tuesday. Vesser’s day raised the Tornado catcher’s totals to a smoking-hot 14-of-17 through 11 games this season, raising his batting average to startling .824.
Vesser’s continued tear was part of a breakout day for the Tornadoes (5-6, 3-0) against the Warriors. Alcoa was coming off a 1-0 loss to county-rival William Blount on Saturday. Dropping to 4-6 on the season at that point led Alcoa coach Steve Dunn to issue a challenge to the Tornadoes at a team meeting on Monday. Tuesday, the Tornadoes were all business.
“We had a good meeting (Monday),” Dunn said, “and what I told them is, ‘We’re right on that edge of being a good baseball team.’”
The Warriors (9-1, 3-1) took the early lead on Tuesday, jumping to a 2-0 lead after half an inning. In the bottom of the inning, senior and University of Kentucky football signee Tyler Robinson belted a three-run homer off the scoreboard behind the left field fence, collecting Vesser and Neil Borden for a 3-2 Alcoa lead.
“We had two errors in that first inning,” Dunn said. “They (the Tornadoes) kind of regrouped and battled back.”
Robinson saw three consecutive curve balls prior to the blast. Before the game, Dunn said he’d advised the Tornadoes to be mindful of the Warrior starter’s tendency to rely on the pitch. When Robinson was offered a fourth bender, he jumped on it.
“I have a habit of lunging forward a lot,” Robinson said. “I just need to stay back.
“We haven’t been playing good baseball at all lately. At the meeting, coach Dunn told us, ‘It’s time.’”
Christian Academy rallied in its half of the second, again taking a two-run lead. Again, Alcoa answered, knotting the game at 5-all in its half of the second. A big third and an even bigger fourth opened the Tornado lead to 8-5, with the Warriors tying the game at 8-8 after 5 ½ innings. Trout plated the eventual winning run for the Tornadoes in the Alcoa half of the sixth.
Lefty Clint Coulter picked up the win on the hill for the Tornadoes, going the distance and fanning six. At the plate, senior Nathaniel Robinson finished 2-for-2 with a triple, with twin brother Daniel ending the day 2-for-3 with a double and two runs batted in. Troutt added a double for the Tornadoes.
Alcoa visits Heritage on Thursday, with the Tornadoes playing host to the Mountaineers on Friday. The Tornadoes host arch-rival Maryville on Monday.