West Point's Hunter Persall, left, with Matthew McDonald (23), who racked up two of his eight strikeouts in the bottom half of the first inning and held the Aggies scoreless for six straight innings / Nick Griffin
HANCEVILLE – The Cullman County Baseball Tournament concluded Friday night with the West Point Warriors taking the trophy in an 8-4 win over the defending champion Fairview Aggies. The Warriors got past the Hanceville Bulldogs 11-1 and the Aggies rolled past Good Hope 10-0 to set up a repeat of 2017’s championship matchup.
Matthew McDonald went six and a third for the Warriors in the win and despite giving up a few runs to the Aggies in the bottom of the seventh, his head coach Seth Ward was very pleased with his senior lefty’s performance.
“I thought he (McDonald) was fantastic. He commanded the zone pretty well, didn’t get into a lot of three ball counts, did a good job with runners on base and limiting damage,” Ward said. “We took advantage of some mistakes they made on the bases, but I’m proud of him for doing what he did because he pitched well.”
West Point took control of the game early when Levi Allred and Kolton Easterwood barreled up back-to-back doubles to lead off the top of the first. McDonald brought in Allred a few pitches later with a single into right field to jump out to a quick 1-0 lead. Easterwood came home on a fielder’s choice and Blake Diestelow brought in another run with a double into center field to take a 3-0 lead right out of the gate.
McDonald racked up two of his eight strikeouts in the bottom half of the inning and held the Aggies scoreless for six straight innings. McDonald continued to show out both at the plate and on the mound with a two-RBI single in the second that gave West Point a commanding 5-0 lead.
Both teams held each other scoreless for the next two innings until Sam Briehn singled into left to bring home Hunter Persall and stretch the Warriors’ lead to 6-0. Pat McKeehan added to the lead on an RBI single to take a 7-0 advantage into the sixth. Rylan Jones tacked on an eighth run in the sixth inning with a double back to the center field wall that brought home Allred and gave West Point an 8-0 lead with six outs remaining for the Aggies.
Fairview got on the board in the bottom half of the sixth with a double from Dayne Black that scored Lane Schnittker to cut the lead to seven going into the final frame. The Aggies were able to put a scare into the Warrior fans in the crowd as they scored three in the final half inning. Garrett Dunn and Riley Carroll brought in runs on back-to-back doubles and Black drove home another run with a single, but it was too little too late for the defending champs. Bryson Fletcher flew out to center field to end the rally and the game with an 8-4 final.
Coach Ward and the Warriors were excited to win regardless of the opponent but getting revenge against the top-seeded Aggies made it that much sweeter.
“It means a lot. We know they’re tough, they never quit, they never give up. We were on our guys in the dugout to stay in it, stay in it, stay in it,” Ward said, “We’ve played them a ton over the last few years and we’ve got a ton of respect for them and they competed their tails off. I’m proud of our guys for staying in it and competing, too.”
The Warriors out-paced their tournament opponents by a score of 30-6 in three games and will look to keep their momentum rolling forward in 2018, starting with a road trip against the Sparkman Senators March 13.
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