PREP BASEBALL: Bearcats down Trojans 12-3 to clinch playoff berth

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Cullman’s Max Dueland (2) and Jake Dueland (11) meet at the plate during the ‘Cats’ 12-3 win over Muscle Shoals Wednesday. (Nick Griffin/The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – After blanking Muscle Shoals on the road 9-0 Tuesday night to take a 1-0 lead in the area series, the Bearcats returned home to Bill Shelton Field Thursday night with a chance to wrap up a series win and clinch a spot in the postseason. Cullman did just that, plating three runs in the third and five more in the fifth to help build a lead and pulled away to take the game 12-3, the series win 2-0 and a trip back to the playoffs. Kaleb Heatherly got the start and the win on the mound, tossing 5.1 innings, allowing three runs on six hits and striking out four Trojans.

‘Cats head coach Brent Patterson is pleased with the way his team has been playing this week and wants to continue building momentum with the postseason right around the corner.

“I just feel like lately we’ve been putting more solid performances together. We’re trying to get to where there isn’t a glaring phase of the game where we come up short. In a lot of our losses, we’ve pitched it really well, had really good at bats but we didn’t defend it very well,” Patterson said. “So, we’re just trying to get to where we are solid in every phase and Tuesday night I was about as pleased as I’ve been all year. We pitched it, defended it and ran the bases.”

Patterson also touched on his starting pitcher’s performance Thursday night and the way he thinks this team can continue to win games going forward this season.

“We always say it starts on the mound and Kaleb was fantastic. When your starting pitcher gives your offense some time to settle in that’s a good luxury to have. So, now in game two we’re going to go back out and try to be solid again and just get used to being solid. We’re not a spectacular team by any means but we can be a very solid team and if we can keep putting solid games together, we can win.”

After a scoreless opening inning, Cullman struck first in the bottom of the second when Zac Edwards drove in Jake Dueland with an RBI single. The Bearcats got two more runs on the board in the bottom of the third after Carter Gay and Max Dueland each crossed the plate on a passed ball and an error. The ‘Cats continued to take advantage of the Trojans’ mistakes and Jake Dueland came home to score on another passed ball to make it a 4-0 game going into the fourth.

Heatherly helped himself out with an RBI double that made it a 5-0 game in the bottom of the fourth, but Muscle Shoals was able to get on the board and trim the lead to 5-2 in the top half of the fifth. Cullman got those runs back and then some in the bottom of the inning, starting with another RBI single from Edwards that made it 6-2. Hunter Brooks scored on a fielder’s choice to stretch the lead to 7-2 and Brennen Norton drove an RBI single into left field to make it 8-2. The Bearcats added two more runs to their lead after Matt Brock scored on another passed ball and an RBI groundout from Heatherly gave them a 10-2 lead going into the sixth.

The Trojans were able to cut the lead to 10-3 in the top of the sixth but wouldn’t come any closer than that. A throwing error and a fielder’s choice allowed Cullman to plate two more runs in the bottom of the sixth and Hayden Stancil struck out the first three batters he faced in the top of the seventh to secure a 12-3 win for the ‘Cats.

Jake Dueland was 3-for-4 at the plate in the win and Edwards (two RBIs) and Stancil each posted a pair of hits as well. Brock and Norton also added a hit and an RBI in the win for Cullman.

The Bearcats improve to 20-10 on the season with the win and after finishing the area series with Muscle Shoals tonight, Cullman will be on the road Tuesday to begin its next series with the Hartselle Tigers.

Cullman 9 – Muscle Shoals 2 (game two)

The ‘Cats and Trojans were locked in a tight battle for most of their second game Thursday night, but Cullman plated six runs in the bottom of the sixth to pull ahead for good and went on to claim a 9-2 win to complete the series sweep.

A solo homer off the bat of Brennen Norton gave the Bearcats a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first and after a scoreless second inning, Norton made it 2-0 when an RBI single in the third. Cullman added another run in the fifth when Will Bradberry drilled an RBI double into center field, but Muscle Shoals was able to cut the lead to 3-2 in the top of the sixth.

However, the ‘Cats responded in the bottom half of the inning with six runs of their own. Cole Robertson and Grant Morrison each crossed the plate on a passed ball and an error to make it a 5-2 game and Norton blasted a bases-clearing double later in the inning to stretch the lead to 8-2. Stancil drove an RBI single up the middle to bring Norton home and gave Cullman a 9-2 lead going into the final frame. Morrison took the mound in the top of the seventh and put away the final three outs to secure a 9-2 win for the Bearcats.

Norton posted three hits and five RBIs in the win for Cullman. Bradberry (one RBI) added a pair of hits and Stancil (one RBI) and Morrison each finished with a hit as well.

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