MONTGOMERY, Ala. – After playing 40 of their 43 games on the road this season, posting a 30-13 record and sweeping Chelsea in Montgomery, the Cullman Bearcats are state champions for the fifth time in school history. Dylon Wallace pitched a gem in game one, allowing no runs on just one hit and striking out six in the 1-0 win while in game two, the bats came alive for Cullman. The game was tied at 3 going into the fifth inning but the ‘Cats plated four runs in the top half of the frame to go up 7-3 and pulled away to win it 9-4. Ben Hollis (one RBI) led Cullman with three hits and Niklas Fondren and Nicholas Braswell (two RBIs) each added a pair of hits as well.
Bearcats Head Coach Brent Patterson reflected on the season that this team has put together and how they stack up to some of the great Cullman teams of the past.
“I just couldn’t be any more proud. This team is not like a lot of the other teams that have been down here in the past. They kind of wore an underdog jersey for most of the year and I’m just really proud of the way they came together and learned how to win games,” Patterson said. “Chelsea is a great opponent to have in the finals and they deserve to be here with the road that they went through. Coach (Michael) Stallings is obviously doing a great job with that program and gave us absolutely everything that we could take.”
Wallace’s stellar performance in game one was enough to put the ‘Cats up 1-0 in the series and Dylon talked about his mentality when he steps on the mound. Wallace found himself in a pitcher’s duel against Chelsea’s Connor Ball, but he was confident that his team would pick him up if he could stick it out on the mound.
“I just try to throw strikes. If I put in the strike zone, they might swing and miss or they’re going to hit it to one of my guys and they’re going to make a play for me. So, every inning I went out there tied 0-0 and I knew if I could get three more outs, they would get me a run, so I just kept on pushing and battling and I ended up not giving up any and they gave me one,” Wallace said. “It was a tight game and I knew we were in a battle, so I was just trying to one-up him every time and when he didn’t give up a run, I knew I wasn’t giving up a run that inning and I just had my guys behind. I trusted them and just threw strikes and we ended up on top.”
Patterson admits that Wallace wasn’t part of the pitching staff for the Bearcats when the season began but earned time on the mound with his energy. Coach believes that Wallace, along with some arms for the ‘Cats, brings a competitive energy to the game that the rest of the team can get behind.
“Dylon wasn’t in our pitching rotation when the season started, and he asked to go to the pen one day. I didn’t go, Coach (Shannon) Fondren went he said ‘Hey Dylon’s pretty good’. He threw two bullpens and he was good both times, but he just brings so much competitiveness and sometimes there are certain people that when they get on the mound, the team breathes that energy and the team just feeds off of it,” Patterson said. “Dylon’s got this fearless nature, a competitiveness that the team feeds off of and even the coaches kind of fall back on him. So, there is a sense of security when you’re throwing a guy like that out there. He doesn’t have amazing stuff by any means, but he’s got such a competitive nature that the bigger the moment when most people kind of start to crack a little bit, he’s at his best.”
Peyton Colvard got the start on the hill for game two and something he noticed while he was up there were the noisy Cullman fans packed into Riverwalk Stadium. The Bearcats have played virtually the entire season away from home but Colvard says you can’t tell when you turn and look at the Cullman section in the stands
“Even with the lows we’ve had throughout our year, our fans were still there, and they come again and again,” Colvard said. “We didn’t have a home game until the second round of the playoffs and they’re still there so they’re just relentless fans.”
Coach Patterson has been to Montgomery for this series several times now in his tenure with the Bearcats and has been on both ends of the outcome. Patterson isn’t surprised to see his kids have success after seeing them put in the work but still says taking home that blue map is a surreal feeling.
“It’s so hard to win it and our program has been here 12 times and there have been years where we definitely should’ve won it and didn’t. There are other years where it’s a coin flip and sometimes we’ve won it and sometimes we haven’t,” Patterson said. “It’s so hard to win it and when it actually happens, I’m out there watching them hug each other and watching the fans celebrate and it’s all kind of a fitting end to how much work they’ve put in throughout their careers, not one year. To look at where we started the year to how we finished, it was a long, long journey and it’s just surreal when it happens.”
There’s already a lot of baseball hardware in the trophy cases at Cullman High School but they’ll have to make room for one more map when the ‘Cats return home with their fifth state championship.
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