PREP BASEBALL: Cullman, West Point open season with wins

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Spring is upon us and that means its past time for teams all across the state to get back on the diamond. Two of those teams, the Cullman Bearcats and West Point Warriors, opened up their 2022 campaigns this weekend and both of them got things started with a win. Cullman spent the weekend in Birmingham competing in this year’s Prep Baseball Report (PBR) Alabama Kickoff Classic and toppled No. 2 Oxford 8-2 in its first matchup Friday night. The ’Cats rallied to beat Oak Mountain 5-4 Saturday and fell to Hoover 2-1 in their final game Saturday night. Cullman will be at Bill Shelton Field to host Gardendale in its home opener Tuesday at 4:30.

A couple hours to the north, the West Point Warriors were getting their season underway, and they started the season 1-0 as well. West Point handled Deshler 7-4 Friday night and dropped a tight one to Muscle Shoals 1-0 Saturday. The Warriors will be back on the road Tuesday to face off against Hayden.

Cullman 8 – Oxford 2 (Friday)

The ‘Cats opened up their season against the second-ranked Oxford Yellow Jackets Friday night and after trailing 2-1 most of the game, they put seven runs on the board in the final two innings to pull away with an 8-2 win.

Hayden Stancil got the start on the mound and after allowing just two runs on six hits and striking out four in three innings of work, Easton Peed came on and finished things off. Peed tossed four scoreless innings and struck out eight batters.

Oxford took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second but an RBI double from Paxton Ponder cut the lead to 2-1 in the bottom half of the inning. After a scoreless third and fourth inning, Cullman pulled ahead in the fifth. A Will Bradberry bunt led to Jake Dueland scoring on a fielder’s choice and tying things up at 2. Hunter Brooks then singled up the middle to load the bases and Kaleb Heatherly ripped a bases-clearing double into left field to give the Bearcats a 5-2 lead going into the sixth. A pair of bunts and another fielder’s choice allowed Cullman to score three more runs in the bottom of the sixth and the ‘Cats went on to defeat Oxford 8-2.

Heatherly (two hits) posted three RBIs in the win. Bradberry finished with two RBIs and Zac Edwards (one hit) and Brooks (one hit) each drove in a run as well.

West Point 7 – Deshler 4 (Friday)

The Warriors got their season started with a Friday night win as well. West Point led Deshler 7-0 going into the fifth inning but had to withstand a comeback effort from the Tigers to hold on and leave with a 7-4 win.

JD Cochran started on the mound for the Warriors and looked sharp in the season opener, tossing four scoreless innings and allowing just four hits while striking out six.

After two scoreless innings, West Point got some runs on the board in the third when Cochran drove and RBI double into left field to make it a 1-0 game. One pitch later, Issac Hoffpauir singled toward right field to drive in another run and Colton McCoy followed with an RBI single of his own to make it 3-0. Cade Simmons kept things going with another RBI single to left and Taylor Curtis scored on an error to put the Warriors in front 5-0 going into the bottom half of the third.

Aidan Maddox scored on a passed ball in the fourth inning to stretch the lead to 6-0 and Hoffpauir crossed the plate on a double steal later in the inning to give West Point a 7-0 advantage after four innings. Deshler was able to string some hits together and put runs on the board in the fifth and sixth innings, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Warriors’ early lead and they held on to win it over the Tigers 7-4.

Cochran (two hits), Hoffpauir (one hit), Simmons (one hit) and McCoy (one hit) each posted an RBI in the win.

Cullman 5 – Oak Mountain 4 (Saturday)

The Bearcats returned to Birmingham Saturday morning for a matchup against Oak Mountain and they had to mount a rally in the sixth inning to come from behind and top the Eagles. Zane Watwood stood out on the mound for Cullman, entering the game in the fifth inning and tossing three scoreless frames, allowing just one hit in that stretch.

The ‘Cats trailed 4-0 going into the fifth but they were finally able to get on the board thanks to RBI singles from Hunter Howell and Hayden Stancil that trimmed the lead to 4-2. Cullman continued to chip away in the sixth, starting when Paxton Ponder scored on a fielder’s choice to make it a 4-3 game. A few pitches later, Watwood helped himself out with an RBI double into left field that tied things up at 4. A passed ball then allowed Cody Jones to cross the plate and give the Bearcats a 5-4 lead going into the bottom half of the inning.

Oak Mountain was unable to answer to scoring run from Cullman and the ‘Cats went on to defeat the Eagles 5-4. Howell (one hit), Watwood (one hit), Stancil (one hit) and Will Bradberry each finished with an RBI in the win.

Hoover 2 – Cullman 1 (Saturday)

The Bearcats took on Hoover in their final game of the PBR Alabama Kickoff Classic Saturday night and dropped a low-scoring battle with the Bucs 2-1. The game was tied at 1 most of the way until Hoover managed to pull ahead in the bottom of the fifth and the Bucs held on to top Cullman 2-1.

Jake Dueland got the ‘Cats on the board with a sacrifice fly in the top of the first but they weren’t able to put more runs on the board. Dueland also got the start on the mound and allowed one run on three hits in three innings of work. Zac Edwards and Kaleb Heatherly each finished with three hits in the loss.

Muscle Shoals 1 – West Point 0 (Saturday)

The Warriors fell in a tight pitcher’s duel on the road against Muscle Shoals Saturday. Eli Folds started for West Point on the bump and got his senior season started with a stellar performance. The LaGrange signee tossed six innings, allowing one run (unearned) on just two hits and striking out six. Folds also posted the Warriors’ only hit in the loss. Both teams combined for just three hits in the game.

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