PREP BASEBALL: Warriors down Fairview 9-2 to win 3rd straight county crown

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The West Point Warriors defeated Fairview 9-2 in Saturday’s Cullman County Tournament Championship Game to win their third consecutive county title. (Nick Griffin/The Cullman Tribune)

VINEMONT, Ala. – The West Point Warriors may not have had the chance to defend their county championship in 2020 but they made sure to make up for it Saturday. The Warriors knocked off Hanceville 11-2 in the semifinals and Fairview 9-2 in the county championship game to secure their third consecutive Cullman County Championship.

West Point’s pitching staff allowed just six combined hits and four runs in their two county tournament games and Head Coach Drew Bryson has been really pleased with the way his unit has continued improving over the past month.

“I thought our guys were very focused and came out very business-like. We came in and handled our business the way we needed to. That game one was really close for about four of five innings, but our guys didn’t panic. (Adam) Cooper threw a great game and kept them in it for a while but our guys didn’t really get frustrated or anything like that and we were able to kind of get it done late,” Bryson said. “Then it was big for us in the next game when Branson (Smith) came out and gave us another good quality start and then behind him we put up four right out of the gate to just kind of make things a lot easier for us.”

Now that they have the county title, the Warriors will shift their focus to the opening round of the state playoffs coming up next week. Bryson likes the way his team is playing at this point in the season but wants to take this week to polish some things up before the postseason arrives.

“We just need to focus on doing the little things. We’ve been playing great baseball for the past three weeks going back to spring break. We had a great trip down to the beach and played really well and that’s kind of where it started for us,” Bryson said. “I thought we played really good against Russellville even though we lost the series and then we took care of business this week against Lawrence County. So, over that stretch we’ve played well, and we’ve won but there’s a lot of little things we’ve messed that we need to fix. We’re going to focus in on getting that stuff fixed before Friday.”

After Branson Smith got the Warriors out of a jam with a pair of strikeouts in the top of the first, they took an early lead in the bottom half of the inning. Aubry Cleghorn drew a walk with the bases loaded to make it 1-0 and after Eli Folds scored on a passed ball, Will Cochran scored on a sacrifice fly from Isaac Hoffpauir to make it a 3-0 game. An RBI single from Carter Thornton tacked on another run and West Point led Fairview 4-0 going into the second inning.

Taylor Curtis scored on a fielder’s choice in the bottom of the second to make it a 5-0 game and after a scoreless third inning, an RBI single from Hoffpauir made it 6-0 in the bottom of the fourth. The Warriors added to their lead in the fifth when Smith brought Kanaan Sutter home with a sacrifice fly to make it 7-0 and after Curtis scored on a wild pitch, Cochran drove in another run with an RBI double into left center to give West Point a 9-0 advantage going into the sixth.

Parker Martin scored on a passed ball to cut the lead to 9-1 in the top of the sixth and an RBI single from Martin made it a 9-2 game in the seventh, but the Aggies couldn’t get any closer than that and the Warriors held on to take this year’s county championship 9-2.

Smith earned the win on the mound for West Point after tossing six innings, allowing one run (unearned) on just two hits and striking out nine. Hoffpauir finished with a pair of hits and RBIs in the win and Thornton (one RBI) posted a pair of hits as well. Smith drove in a pair of runs and Cochran and Cleghorn each added a hit and an RBI.

West Point 11 – Hanceville 2 (Semifinals)

Hanceville and West Point starters Adam Cooper and Will Cochran dueled it out through a scoreless first and second inning, but the Bulldogs were able to take a lead in the top of the third. An RBI single from Zach Campbell put Hanceville on top 1-0 and Drew Campbell drove an RBI double into center field to make it a 2-0 game.

The Warriors responded in the bottom half of the inning, tying the game at 2 when Cade Simmons scored on a fielder’s choice and Cochran drove in Kanaan Sutter with an RBI single. After a scoreless fourth inning, West Point began to pull away in the bottom of the fifth. Three straight singles from Eli Folds, Cochran and Aubry Cleghorn put the Warriors in front 3-2 and Carter Thornton drove in two more runs with an RBI double into center field. Chase Sibley kept the inning going with an RBI double into right field and stretched the lead to 6-2 going into the sixth inning.

West Point continued adding to its lead in the bottom of the sixth. Folds scored on an error to make it 7-2 and an RBI single from Isaac Hoffpauir made it 8-2. After Cleghorn scored on a passed ball, Hoffpauir scored on a sacrifice fly from Simmons to make it a 10-2 game and Thornton crossed the plate on a throwing error to stretch the lead to 11-2 going into the final frame.

The Bulldogs went three up, three down in the top of the seventh and the Warriors held on to win it 11-2 and advance to this year’s county championship game.

Cochran earned the win on the mound after tossing six innings, allowing two runs on just two hits and striking out eight batters. Cleghorn came on for the final inning and retired the first three batters he faced to secure the win. Cochran also finished 3-for-4 at the plate with an RBI while Thornton (two RBIs) and Folds (one RBI) each posted a pair of hits as well.

Fairview 5 – Vinemont 3 (Semifinals)

The Aggies got on the board in the bottom of the first when Parker Martin crossed the plate on a passed ball to make it a 1-0 game and Tanner Bennett drove an RBI single through the infield to plate another run and make it 2-0 going into the second. After three scoreless innings, Fairview added to its lead in the bottom of the fifth.

Brody Hogeland scored on a wild pitch to stretch the lead to 3-0 and on the next pitch, Bryceson Turner laced an RBI single up the middle to make it 4-0. Bennett pushed across another run with another RBI single and the Aggies went into the sixth leading Vinemont 5-0.

The Eagles cut into the lead in the top of the sixth when Austin Riddle ripped an RBI triple into left field that plated two runs and made it a 5-2 game. A sacrifice fly by Mason McKinney brought Riddle across the plate and Vinemont trimmed the lead to 5-3 going into the bottom half of the inning.

The late rally put some pressure on the Aggies, but they were able to hold onto their lead and advance to the county championship game with a 5-3 win over the Eagles.

Turner tossed a complete game for Fairview, earning the win after allowing three runs on five hits and striking out four. Bennett finished 3-for-3 at the plate with a pair of RBIs and Turner (one hit) and Levi Garner each posted an RBI as well.

Riddle (one RBI) and Collin Teichmiller each posted a pair of hits for Vinemont in the loss.

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