The Warriors collect their trophy on the field after defeating Fairview 6-5 in the Cullman County Baseball Tournament championship game. (Nick Griffin for The Cullman Tribune)
HOLLY POND, Ala. – After falling behind 5-3 in the top of the seventh on a three-run shot from Riley Carroll, the West Point Warriors rallied in the final frame of the Cullman County Baseball Tournament championship game to score three runs and capture their second straight county title. The winning run came home when Branson Smith put a fly ball in shallow center field, Cooper Couch tagged up from third base and narrowly beat the throw at the plate to walk it off and knock off the Aggies in a thriller.
After the game, West Point Head Coach Drew Bryson had a lot to reflect on. The Warriors committed some errors in critical situations, but they maintained their composure and found a way to win the game after all the momentum swung to Fairview’s side in the top of the seventh.
“Riley Carroll is a great hitter. He had a great year last year and did some damage against us and we just hung a two-strike breaking ball up and he got the barrel to it and that was a tough one,” Bryson said. “They got all the momentum right there and took the lead and I told the guys we really didn’t play a good game at all. Early on, we put our pitcher in a bind by kicking some balls and not making routine plays and just really struggled on defense. So, for our guys to shut it down and keep it at 5-3 and find a way to come back and get guys on and just get to the next guy…luckily for us, our guys battled through it, showed some mental toughness and overcame our lackluster performance early to find a way at the end to get it done.”
The Aggies struck first with an RBI single from Dalton Payne in the top of the first, but the Warriors got the run back in their half of the inning when Hunter Persall scored on an error. West Point extended its lead in the second when Rylan Jones used a well-timed jump to steal home plate and Branson Smith scored on an error to make it a 3-1 game going into the third.
Fairview trimmed the lead to 3-2 with an RBI single from Levi Garner in the top of the fourth, and that score held all the way to the top of the seventh. Garner led off the inning and got hit by a pitch to reach first base, and a single from Malcolm Parker put two runners on the bags for Riley Carroll. Carroll knocked one over the left-field fence to give the Aggies a 5-3 lead and put the pressure on the Warriors with just three outs remaining.
Just like Garner in the top of the inning, Levi Farley led off the bottom of the seventh and got hit by a pitch. Persall drove him in with a double over the right fielder’s head to cut the lead to 5-4, and a walk followed by a single from Will Cochran loaded the bases for Aubry Cleghorn. Cleghorn singled into left field to bring Persall home and tie the game, but Whitt Laney was thrown out at third to give Fairview two outs. Smith came to the plate and lifted a ball into center field just deep enough to allow Couch to score from third and secure a 6-5, walk-off win for West Point.
Cleghorn, Smith and Jones each recorded two hits for the Warriors in the win. Carroll led the game with three RBIs for the Aggies.
Fairview 5 – Hanceville 4 (semifinal game)
After two scoreless innings, Parker scored to give Fairview a 1-0 lead and after two more scoreless frames, Parker scored on a passed ball and Oakley Mullican laced a two-run double to right field to extend the lead to 4-0.
An RBI single from Ephrium Milne made it 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth, and Hanceville stole the momentum later in the inning when it tied the game on a three-run double from Ashton James.
The game remained tied going into the seventh inning, but the Aggies broke the tie when Dayne Black came home to score, and Fairview held on to win it in the bottom of the seventh and advance to the county title game against West Point.
West Point 8 – Vinemont 3 (semifinal game)
The Warriors took an early 3-0 lead in this one by scoring on a pair of passed balls and a sacrifice fly from Cleghorn, but Vinemont responded in the top of the third.
RBI singles from Clay Rogers, Issac Smith and Zander Noblett tied the game at 3-3, but after a couple of scoreless innings, West Point moved back in front.
A two-run single from Jones made it 5-3 in the bottom of the fifth, and an RBI single from Cochran and a two-run double from Cleghorn made it 8-3 in the bottom of the sixth. The Warriors held on to win it in the seventh and advanced to take on Fairview in the county title game.
Other Thursday night scores:
Cullman 3 – DeSoto Central 2 (varsity baseball)
Cold Springs 9 – Meek 7 (varsity baseball)
Addison 6 – Lynn 0 (varsity baseball)
Huntsville 10 – West Point 0 (varsity softball)
Hartselle 10 – Cullman 0 (varsity softball)
West Point 7 – Brooks 2 (varsity boys’ tennis)
J.B. Pennington 2 – West Point 1 (varsity girls’ soccer)
Oneonta 10 – Good Hope 0 (varsity girls’ soccer)
Oneonta 10 – Good Hope 0 (varsity boys’ soccer)
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