CULLMAN, Ala. – A global pandemic may have prevented the Bearcats from defending their area championship last year but they more than made up for it this week. After Hayden Stancil’s 2-hit gem helped lead the way in a 2-1 win at Hartselle Tuesday night, the ‘Cats returned home to finish the series at Bill Shelton Field Thursday and another stellar pitching performance from Jeb Bartle lifted Cullman to a 2-0 win over the Tigers to wrap up the area series and a 10th consecutive area title.
Bartle tossed a complete game shutout on the mound, allowing just four hits and striking out and striking out four batters. Bearcats Head Coach Brent Patterson has been very pleased with his pitching staff’s performance this week and the way his team has found ways to win.
“It takes a lot of stress off of us offensively because our pitchers haven’t been walking people to create innings. I thought both our guy and theirs did a great job of throwing tons of strikes and forcing the issue to make hitters beat them instead of letting walks beat them,” Patterson said. “So, Jeb was outstanding obviously. No walks, one hit batter and then we played great defense. I try to sell them on the idea that if we pitch it and defend it and just have competitive at bats, we have a chance to win every day that we play. It was good to see that really come to fruition.”
Cullman got on the board in the bottom of the first when three straight singles from Brennen Norton, Hayden Stancil and Kaleb Heatherly loaded up the bases and an RBI groundout from Max Dueland pushed across a run and made it 1-0 going into the second inning. Neither team had much success getting runners on the bases over the next few innings and the ‘Cats were able to roll a pair of double plays to get the Tigers out when they did.
The Bearcats added to their lead in the fifth when Norton doubled down the third base line to put a runner on second and one pitch later, Stancil came up just a few feet short of homerun in left field to score Norton and stretch the lead to 2-0 going into the sixth. Hartselle managed to get a runner on base in the top of the sixth and the top half of the seventh but didn’t get any closer to the plate than that and Cullman held on to win the game 2-0, the area series 2-0 and their 10th consecutive area crown.
Norton finished 3-for-3 at the plate and Stancil added a pair of hits and an RBI in the win. Jackson Stanford and Matt Brock each posted a hit as well and Dueland posted an RBI. The ‘Cats will be back home Monday night to wrap up the regular season against Sparkman.
Cullman 10 – Hartselle 0 (Game Two)
After winning a pair of pitcher’s duels in the first two games of the series, the Bearcats erupted for 10 runs in the final game of their area series with Hartselle and put the Tigers away in just five innings. Austin Hurt and Weston Horton each took the mound for Cullman and combined to allow just two hits in the 10-0 win.
The ‘Cats scored as many runs in the first as they had in the previous two games combine. An RBI groundout from Kaleb Heatherly allowed Matt Brock to score and make it 1-0 and Brennen Norton scored on a wild pitch to make it a 2-0 game. An infield error allowed two more runs to cross the plate and Cullman went into the second with a 4-0 lead over the Tigers.
After a scoreless second inning, the Bearcats added to their lead in the third. An RBI single from Grant Morrison drove in Heatherly to make it 5-0 and Brock later drew a walk with the bases loaded to stretch the lead to 6-0. Another wild pitch and an error allowed two more runs to score, making it an 8-0 game and Norton drove an RBI double into left field to drive in another run and make it 9-0. An RBI double by Hayden Stancil put another run on the board and the Bearcats went into the fourth inning with a commanding, 10-0 lead over Hartselle.
The Tigers threatened to score in the top of the fifth but an unassisted double play by Morrison at first base ended the game after five and secured an area sweep for Cullman. The ‘Cats held Hartselle to just one run in all three games of the series. Norton (one RBI) posted three more hits for Cullman in the win and Heatherly (one RBI) added a pair of hits as well.
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