PREP BASEBALL PLAYOFFS: Cullman splits round 3 matchups at Hazel Green

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HAZEL GREEN, Ala. – Cullman hit the road for round three of the AHSAA state baseball playoffs Thursday night and after coming from behind to take game one from Hazel Green, the ‘Cats dropped game two and will return Friday night for a rubber match with the Spartans.

In game one, the Bearcats fell behind 6-0 in the bottom of the first after the Spartans blasted a pair of home runs and scored on two fielder’s choices and an RBI single. The ‘Cats responded with three runs in the top half of the second. Brady Patterson drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, Nick Braswell singled into right field to make it 6-2 and an RBI single from Brennen Norton cut the lead to 6-3 going into the bottom of the second.

Hazel Green was held scoreless in their half of the second and Cullman continued to chip away in the top of the third. An RBI double from Patterson trimmed the lead to 6-4 and Cooper Beck was hit by a pitch with bases loaded to make it a 6-5 game. A 2-run homer put the Spartans on top 8-5 in the bottom of the third but the Bearcats weren’t done scoring yet.

With a pair of runners on base in the top of the fourth, Hazel Green hit four Cullman batters on four straight pitchers to force in three and tie the game at 8. The ‘Cats really took control of the momentum after that when Norton singled into left field to score two runs and give them a 10-8 lead.

The Spartans scored in their half of the fifth to make it a 10-9 game, but Beck doubled in the top of the sixth to put Cullman on top 11-9 going into the bottom of the inning. Norton worked through the final two innings and held Hazel Green scoreless the rest of the way, lifting the Bearcats to an 11-9 comeback win in game one of the series.

Beck (one hit) and Norton (two hits) each racked up three RBIs in the win and Patterson (two hits) drove in a pair of runs for the Bearcats. Braswell (one RBI) finished with a pair of hits as well.

The Bearcats and the Spartans hit the field again after about 20 minutes for game two, but Cullman couldn’t complete the sweep.

Hazel Green took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first and that score held until the bottom of the fourth when A.J. Miller brought Dylon Wallace home to score with a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 1. After a scoreless fifth inning, the Spartans drilled a 2-run double to go up 3-1 and two batters later, a 2-run triple put Hazel Green on top 5-1. Another run crossed the plate on a wild pitch and gave the Spartans a 6-1 advantage going into the bottom half of the sixth.

Cullman chipped away at the lead in the bottom of the sixth. After the ‘Cats loaded the bases, Peyton Colvard was hit by a pitch to make it 6-2 and an RBI single from Ben Hollis trimmed the lead to 6-3 but the Bearcats left the bases loaded and trailed by three going into the final frame.

Hazel Green tacked on two more runs in the top of the seventh to go up 8-3 and collected the final three outs in the bottom half of the inning to take game two of the series.

Norton finished 3-for-5 at the plate in game two and Ben Hollis (one RBI) collected two hits. Miller (one hit) drove in a run for the Bearcats and Colvard (one hit) finished with an RBI as well. Cullman will travel back to Hazel Green Friday at 5 p.m. for game three with a spot in the semi-finals on the line.

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