CULLMAN, Ala. – Baseball season has arrived and the defending 6A state champion Cullman Bearcats opened things up with a rematch of last year’s third round playoff matchup against the Hazel Green Trojans. Cullman blasted the Trojans 10-0 in game one after three ‘Cats pitchers combined to toss a 2-hit shutout and they survived a tight second game 2-1 thanks in large part to a timely RBI double from Ben Hollis and another great effort on the mound from three more Bearcat arms.
Cullman Head Coach Brent Patterson is happy to start the season 2-0 and is especially proud of the way his pitching staff performed in both of Monday night’s outings. He’s encouraged by what he saw, and it makes him even more optimistic about the potential of this year’s group on the mound.
“I thought the pitchers were phenomenal. It’s great to come out and give up one run in two games on opening day with a lot of adrenaline going and they all just want to perform so badly,” Patterson said. “They all want to have a good start to their season so there’s a lot of emotion, a lot of adrenaline and for them to be able to go out there and command the strike zone and make some big pitches with runners on, especially early in that first game, it says a lot about where there are right now but where they can be too. I think the strength of this team would be the amount of quality arms that we can run out there. It’s not a lot of power arms but quality arms that can give us a chance to win because we’re going to be solid defensively. So, overall I’m super proud of a really good night.”
Cullman 10 – Hazel Green 0 (game one)
Hayden Stancil got the start for Cullman in game one and collected six strikeouts in three scoreless innings, allowing just one hit in the process. The ‘Cats got on the board in the bottom of the second when a 2-RBI double off the bat of Easton Dean brought Stancil and Jaylen Hughey around to score and Brady Patterson singled to left to bring Dean and Cooper Bowen home and make it a 4-0 game.
The Bearcats added to their lead in the third when Stancil singled to bring Brennen Norton in and make it 5-0. An error allowed Ben Hollis to reach home later in the inning and stretch the lead to 6-0 going into the fourth. Austin Hurt relieved Stancil in the fourth and put together a nice outing of his own, allowing zero runs on just two hits in two innings of work. Matt Brock came home to score on an error in the bottom of the fifth to build the lead to 7-0 and after Cooper Bowen worked through a quick sixth inning in just 10 pitches, Cullman put it away in the bottom half of the frame.
A 2-run bomb over the right-center field wall from A.J. Miller extended the lead to 9-0 and Nick Braswell doubled into left field to score Norton and end the game at 10-0 in the sixth.
Stancil, Hurt and Bowen combined for a shutout performance against the Trojans, allowing just 2 hits between the three of them. Patterson collected two hits and two RBIs for the Bearcats while Miller (one hit) and Dean (one hit) each finished with a pair of RBIs as well. Norton and Stancil (one RBI) each added two hits as well and Braswell (one hit) and Bowen (one hit) each finished with an RBI of their own. Cullman posted 11 hits in the game.
Cullman 2 – Hazel Green 1 (game two)
There wasn’t as much offense to enjoy in the second game of the night but the ‘Cats were still solid on the mound. Jeb Bartle got the start for Cullman and was able to get some big outs in pressure situations. Brady Patterson came around to score on a fielder’s choice in the bottom of the first to take a 1-0 lead but neither team was able to get the bats going much after that.
After a scoreless second inning, the Trojans tied the game with a bases-loaded walk in the third but the ‘Cats got the run back in the very next frame when Ben Hollis doubled into left field to score A.J. Miller and make it a 2-1 game.
It came down to both pitching staffs at that point and Cade Barnett entered the game at the start of the fourth for Cullman. Barnett proceeded to toss three scoreless innings and pick up six strikeouts to maintain a 1-run lead going into the seventh. Brennen Norton came on to close the game for the Bearcats and after two baserunners found their way onto the bags for Hazel Green, a ball was lined to Patterson and shortstop and he finished off the 2-1 win with a double play.
Bartle, Barnett and Norton combined to allow just one run on four hits and capped off a stellar day on the mound for Cullman. Norton finished with a pair of hits at the plate and Hollis (one RBI), Miller, Hayden Stancil and Matt Brock added hits in the win as well.
The defending state champs are off to a 2-0 start and they’ll be looking for another win at Daphne Friday night.
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