PREP BASEBALL: Bearcats handle Buckhorn at home 9-3

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Cullman’s Kaleb Heatherly, Brennen Norton and Hayden Stancil head back to the dugout after scoring in the third inning. (Nick Griffin/The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The Cullman Bearcats returned home Friday night to take on the Buckhorn Bucks and after falling behind in the opening frame, the ‘Cats plated four runs in the third inning and three more in the fourth to take a big lead and eventually pulled away to win it 9-3. Jeb Bartle got the start on the mound for Cullman and picked up the win as well. The senior right hander tossed five innings, allowing just one run on three hits and striking out eight batters.

A leadoff double gave the Bucks a runner in scoring position to start the game and after a strikeout from Bartle and a groundout to Brennen Norton at shortstop, An RBI single gave Buckhorn a 1-0 lead going into the bottom of the first. Neither team was able to do much at the plate in the next couple innings. The Bearcats were able to get a pair of runners on base in the second inning, but a groundout stranded them and ended the inning. Bartle put together another quick inning in the third to get back in the dugout and Cullman started putting runs on the board in the bottom half of the inning.

After two strikeouts to start the inning, Norton singled into center field and Kaleb Heatherly was hit by a pitch to put a pair of runners on base. Hayden Stancil then drew a walk to load the bases for Max Dueland and after a 9-pitch at bat, Dueland reached first on an infield single to bring home Norton and tie the game. The play wasn’t over though and both Heatherly and Stancil were able to cross the plate on an error by the Bucks to make it 3-1. Jake Dueland kept the inning going and singled up the middle to bring Max home and give the ‘Cats a 4-1 lead going into the fourth.

A single and two walks loaded the bags for Buckhorn in the top of the fourth, but Bartle got out of the jam by getting the next batter to fly out to center field and picked up the third out of the inning with his sixth strikeout of the night. Cullman led off the bottom of the fourth with a pair of strikeouts but managed to do more damage with two outs. Norton put a rope off the center field wall to reach second base and after Heatherly drew a walk to reach first, Stancil singled into left field to bring Norton home and make it a 5-1 game. Max Dueland drew a walk to keep the inning going for the Bearcats and Cole Robertson doubled down the right field line to score two more and give Cullman a 7-1 advantage going into the fifth.

Bartle put the Bucks away on just 12 pitches in the top of the fifth and quickly put the ‘Cats back on offense. Will Bradberry and Paxton Ponder each walked to put a pair of runners on base and Norton singled up the middle to bring Bradberry around and make it 8-1. Ponder managed to steal home during the next at bat to put nine runs on the board for Cullman and the Bearcats went into the sixth with a commanding, 9-1 lead.

Stancil relieved Bartle on the mound in the sixth inning and after a double, a hit batter and a walk loaded the bases for Buckhorn, Stancil picked up a strikeout and Ponder turned a ground ball into a double play to get the ‘Cats out of the sixth unscathed. The Bearcats went down in order in the bottom of the sixth and the Bucks were able to put a couple runs on the board in the top of the seventh, but they couldn’t overcome the early lead and Cullman held on to win it 9-3.

Norton was 3 for 4 at the plate and drove in an RBI in the win. Robertson added two hits and two RBIs for the Bearcats and Stancil and Max and Jake Dueland each finished with a hit and an RBI as well.

Cullman improves to 5-2 on the season with the win and will be back at Bill Shelton Field Saturday to host Arab at 1 p.m.

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