PREP BASEBALL PLAYOFFS: ‘Cats take game 3 over Hazel Green 13-7 to advance

Cullman’s Jake Dueland reaches home plate after his solo homerun against Hazel Green Saturday. (Nick Griffin/The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – After splitting their first two games with Hazel Green Friday night, the Bearcats returned to Bill Shelton Field for game three Saturday and posted 13 runs on 14 hits to power past the Trojans 13-7 and advance to round two for the 19th consecutive season. Hazel Green took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but Cullman responded with a pair of runs in the bottom of the second and tacked on seven more in the third to stretch the lead and went on to win it 13-7.

‘Cats Head Coach Brent Patterson knew his team would come excited to play Saturday, but he was even happier with their approach at the plate compared to game two.

“I wasn’t worried about them showing up with energy, I was more worried about them trying to do too much. Last night we were not good with runners in scoring position and every guy was trying to change the tide of the game on his own,” Patterson said. “So, we talked about the delicate balance of trying too hard vs. being too nonchalant and to be honest with you, you just have to be in those situations.”

Cullman is used to winning in round one, but Patterson believes this year’s win carries even more significance. This year’s Bearcats team doesn’t have as much postseason experience as some in year’s past and Patterson is excited to see them build on this experience as they go deeper into the playoffs.

“This year more than maybe ever its just really important to win the first round. It was ugly and we didn’t play well but you have to advance. Now we can take the lessons from round one and start using them in later rounds. As a coaching staff we always want to play perfect, but we have to play well enough to advance. So, I was proud of the guys and I thought Austin Hurt was the player of the game,” Patterson said. “He stepped into his position with confidence, stepped into the box with confidence, had two doubles and another one that was an out on the warning track and I really think he is the player that allowed us to exhale because he got those big hits. Now, if we can take what Austin did and let that spread that to a couple more people, we’ll have a chance to win some more rounds.”

Hazel Green struck first in the opening frame to take a 1-0 lead, but the Bearcats answered in the bottom of the second. Jake Dueland drove a solo homerun over the right field wall to tie the game at 1 and after a single from Hunter Brooks and a double from Austin Hurt, Brooks scored on an RBI groundout from Paxton Ponder to put Cullman on top 2-1 going into the third. The Trojans were able to push a run across and tie the game at 2 in the top of the third but the ‘Cats got that run back and a lot more in their half of the inning.

Brennen Norton led off the inning with a walk, Heatherly doubled into right field and Hayden Stancil was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Max Dueland was then hit by a pitch to bring in a run and give the Bearcats a 3-2 lead and Brooks drew another walk to make it 4-2. An RBI single from Hurt plated two more runs to stretch the lead to 6-2 and Ponder put an RBI double just in front of the fence in left-center to score two more and make it an 8-2 game. Norton laced an RBI single into left field to add another run to the lead and Cullman led Hazel Green 9-2 going into the fourth inning.

After a scoreless fourth inning, the Trojans scored a pair of runs in the top of the fifth to cut the lead to 9-4 but Max Dueland got those runs back in the bottom of the inning with a 2-run single up the middle to make it 11-4 going into the sixth. Hazel Green led off the top of the sixth with a solo homer to trim the lead to 11-5 and an RBI single made it 11-6 later in the inning but an RBI single from Matt Brock and an infield error allowed the Bearcats to score two more in the bottom of the sixth and take a 13-6 lead into the final frame. Another solo homerun put another run on the board for the Trojans but that was all they could get in the seventh and Cullman held on to win it 13-7 and advance to the next round of the state playoffs.

Norton (one RBI) finished with three hits at the plate and Ponder (two hits) and Max Dueland (one hit) each posted three RBIs. Jake Dueland (solo HR), Brock (one RBI) and Hurt (two RBIs) each added a pair of hits in the win as well.

The Bearcats will be on the road next Friday to face Chelsea in round two.

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