HARTSELLE, Ala. – Thursday’s first matchup between the Bearcats and the Tigers was just another typical Cullman v. Hartselle game in which the ‘Cats built an 8-1 advantage by the bottom of the seventh, the Tigers plated seven runs in the final frame to force extra innings and Cullman rallied to win it 10-8 with an area championship on the line. Cooper Beck and Brennen Norton both stepped it up for the Bearcats in the eighth inning as Beck blasted a two-run shot over the right-field fence to give them a 10-8 lead and Norton came onto the mound in the bottom of the eighth with the winning run at the plate and put out the final three batters to secure the win and this year’s 6A, Area 14 title.
After catching his breath, head coach Brent Patterson talked about his team’s ability to remain calm and rally after Hartselle’s huge seventh inning.
“We’ve been through a lot throughout the year and we’ve been on both ends of that. To get punched in the gut like that, I really don’t have an explanation for how that happened. We just made a couple mistakes and they hit some balls in the right places and then Drew Nix gets that huge, huge hit that was so clutch and it takes the life out of you for a second, but A.J. (Miller) came in and threw one pitch, quieted the storm, and then Nik Fondren does his thing and Cooper just gives us a gigantic response with a two-run homer that was like life in our blood again,” Patterson said. “I can’t say enough about Brennen. He just makes big pitches and actually the bigger the situation is, the better he’s been.”
Patterson continued, “I’m just so, so proud of them and happy for them to be the area champions and beat a team like this on their field,” Patterson said. “It’s an honor to be area champions in this area with three quality teams.”
The man who put the ‘Cats in front 10-8 with a two-run bomb in the top of the eighth, Beck, knew what he was looking for when he stepped into the box and delivered one of the biggest hits of the season so far for Cullman.
“I was looking for something off-speed because I knew they were trying to get away and off-speed on me all series but I was able to keep my hands back, find a fast ball middle-in and just let the barrel work and then the rest was just how it was,” Beck smiled. “We just never quit. Coach P. preaches to us day in and day out to never give up and it was tough, I’m not going to lie, but we were able to rally together and come out on top.”
The ‘Cats got on the board first in the top of the second when Brady Patterson came around to score on an error and Nicholas Braswell singled up the middle to make it 2-0 early. Beck scored on another error in the top of the third to stretch the lead to 3-0 and an RBI single from Ben Hollis gave Cullman a 4-0 advantage.
Hartselle cut the lead to 4-1 with a solo home run in the bottom of the fourth but Dylon Wallace answered with a two-run homer of his own in the top of the sixth to make it a 6-1 game going into the seventh inning. Patterson brought in another run in the top of the seventh with a sacrifice fly, and Wallace doubled into left field to tack on another run and give the Bearcats an 8-1 lead with three outs to go.
Things took a sharp turn in the bottom half of the seventh. The Tigers led off the inning with a double and later strung together four straight singles to bring in three runs and cut the lead to 8-4. With two outs on the board, a two-run single trimmed the lead to 8-6 and just one pitch later, a two-run shot to left-center field tied the game at 8 and forced extra innings, but Cullman wasn’t going to let the area title slip away.
Fondren singled to get on the base paths and Beck drove a fast ball over the right-field fence to put the ‘Cats in front for good. Norton made his way to the mound in the bottom of the eighth with two runners on base and the tying run at the plate, but he battled for the final three outs and secured the win for Cullman.
Wallace led the Bearcats at the plate with a pair of hits and four RBIs, followed by Fondren who also collected two hits and Beck with a two-run homer. Patterson (one hit), Hollis (one hit) and Braswell (one hit) each drove in a run as well.
Other Thursday scores:
Cold Springs 3 – West End 0 (baseball)
The Eagles punched their ticket to the postseason Thursday night with a 3-0 win over West End and they did it with a shutout performance from Jake Abbott on the mound. Abbott tossed a complete game for Cold Springs and allowed just five hits in the win.
Logan Rice (one RBI) and Brodee Bartlett each collected a pair of hits in the win and Lawson Burgess (one hit) finished with two RBIs.
Russellville 5 – West Point 3 (baseball)
The Warriors were bounced out of the playoff race with a tough loss on the road Thursday night in which Russellville plated a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth to break a 3-3 tie and kept West Point off the board in the seventh to put the game away.
Levi Farley finished 3-for-3 at the plate with an RBI and Aubry Cleghron (solo homerun) and Whitt Laney each recorded a pair of hits in the loss.
West Point 5 – Russellville 4 (baseball)
Game two of the night between the Warriors and Golden Tigers went down to the wire just like game one. West Point took a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth, but Russellville answered with a pair of runs in the bottom half of the inning to move in front 4-3; the Warriors had an answer as well. An RBI triple off the bat of Hunter Persall tied the game at 4 in the top of the seventh and just one pitch later, Persall crossed the plate on a wild pitch to give West Point a 5-4 lead. Will Cochran made his way to the mound for the final frame and collected the final three outs to seal the deal for the Warriors.
Rylan Jones was the standout at the plate, finishing 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs and Persall (one hit) and Eli Folds (one hit) each drove in a run for West Point as well.
Oneonta 3 – Fairview 1 (baseball)
After edging Oneonta 3-1 on Wednesday, things were reversed Thursday night as the Redskins bounced back to defeat the Aggies. Fairview took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first with an RBI single from Dalton Payne but couldn’t find a way to get on the board again and fell on the road 3-1.
Payne led the Aggies with two hits and an RBI and Riley Carroll recorded a hit in the loss as well.
Oneonta 14 – Fairview 1 (baseball)
The Aggies had even more trouble with Oneonta in the second game of the night and after entering the third with a slim, 2-1 lead, the Redskins plated nine runs in the bottom of the third to put the game out of reach for Fairview.
Jarrett Miller and Oakley Mullican recorded the only hits of the game for the Aggies.
Meek 13 – Brilliant 3 (softball)
The Lady Tigers routed Brilliant with a huge offensive performance Thursday night in which they blew things open to pull away after a scoreless first and second inning.
Kalin Rivers (one hit) led Meek with two RBIs and Madison Smith (one hit), Brooke Cleghorn (one hit), Hannah Taylor (one hit), Savannah Smith (one hit), Bailee Fincher (two hits) and LaKota Alden each drove in a run as well.
Addison 8 – Winston County 2 (softball)
The Lady Bulldogs took a big lead early in this one and the Lady Yellow Jackets were never able to answer offensively. Addison took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first but plated four more in the top of the third to put away Winston County.
Sam Brannon (two hits) led the game with three RBIs and Destiny Walker (two hits) drove in a pair of runs as well. Anna Grace Luker (one hit), Madison Aderholt (one hit) and Asia Millwood each posted an RBI in the win.
Hazel Green 7 – Cullman 1 (softball)
The Lady Bearcats only trailed by one after the first inning, but Hazel Green tacked on five in the bottom half of the second to stretch the lead to 6-0 and put the game out of reach for Cullman.
Alex Stansell (one RBI), Faith Guest and Savannah Davis posted the only three hits of the game for the Lady Bearcats.
Ashville 5 – Good Hope 2 (baseball)
The Raiders were able to move ahead and take a 2-1 lead in the third inning of this matchup, but Ashville responded with three runs in the bottom of the fourth and Good Hope’s bats couldn’t catch up.
Lane Speegle (one hit) led the Raiders with two RBIs and Preston Bagwell led the way with two hits in the loss.
J.B. Pennington 12 – Holly Pond 0 (baseball)
The Broncos took a tough loss against the Tigers Thursday night after falling behind 4-0 in the first and never getting the bats going on the offensive end. Pennington tacked on eight more runs in the top of the fifth to put the game away early and eliminate Holly Pond from playoff contention.
Fairview 7 – Danville 0 (girls’ soccer)
Emma Gardner – 3 goals
Greta Bishop – 2 goals
Sydney Babb – 2 goals
Addie Eddleman – shutout in goal
Fairview 1 – Danville 0 (boys’ soccer)
AB Diaz – 1 goal
Mason Roberts – shutout in goal
Guntersville 11 – West Point 1 (girls’ soccer)
Grace Lee – 1 goal
Mallory Campbell – 1 assist
Guntersville 11 – West Point 1 (boys’ soccer)
Axel Roman – 1 goal
Sammy Flores Romero – 1 assist
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