PREP BASEBALL PLAYOFFS: Cullman splits opening games with Gardendale, Game 3 set for Friday

The Cullman Bearcats split their Thursday night matchups with Gardendale and will be back on the field Friday night for game three. (Nick Griffin/The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The Bearcats were back home at Bill Shelton Field for a quarterfinals battle against Gardendale and after dropping game one to the Rockets 4-2, Cullman bounced back to take game two 3-0 and force a game three Friday night. Tucker Cagle tossed a complete game shutout for the ‘Cats in game two, allowing just two hits and striking out seven batters.

Gardendale 6 – Cullman 2 (Game One)

Cullman starter Cooper Loftin worked his way out a two-walk jam to get out of the top of the first unscathed and the Bearcats got some runs on the board in the bottom half of the inning. Elijah Hayes and Paxton Ponder led off the inning with back to back bunt singles and after Riley Jackson laid another great bunt down the third base line, an error allowed Garrett Hall to score and gave the ‘Cats a 1-0 lead. Just a few pitches later, Tucker Cagle punched an RBI single into left field to plate Ponder and stretch the lead to 2-0 going into the second.

The Rockets responded in the top of the second inning, taking a 4-2 lead with a pair of homeruns. Runs were tough to come by in the next few innings. Double plays left Cullman runners stranded in the second and the third and after a scoreless fourth and fifth inning, Gardendale added to its lead in the sixth with an RBI single to make it a 5-2 game.

Singles by Hunter Howell and Cole Floyd gave the Bearcats a pair of runners in the bottom of the sixth, but they were unable to bring them around to score and Cullman went into the final frame trailing by three. The Rockets tacked on one more run in the top of the seventh and the ‘Cats couldn’t answer in the bottom half of the inning, allowing Gardendale to take game one 6-2.

Ponder and Jackson each posted a pair of hits in the loss and Cagle (one RBI), Floyd, Hayes and Howell added hits as well.

Cullman 3 – Gardendale 0 (Game Two)

Paxton Ponder drove a double into center field and Tucker Cagle was hit by a pitch to put a pair of Bearcats on base in the top of the first and an error in the outfield allowed Ponder to score and give Cullman a 1-0 lead going into the bottom of the first.

Elijah Hayes singled in the top of the second to reach first base and a few pitches later, Ponder ripped an RBI single into left field to plate Cody Jones and make it a 2-0 game. Cagle struck out the side in the bottom half of the second and a double play helped the ‘Cats get out of the third with the lead intact. Cagle and the Bearcats retired the next six batters that came to the plate in the fourth and the fifth and they added to their lead in the top of the sixth. Singles from Easton Peed and Hayes gave Cullman a pair of runners and a sacrifice fly from Ponder allowed Peed to score and make it 3-0 later in the inning. The ‘Cats collected the final three outs in the bottom of the seventh and secured a 3-0 win over the Rockets.

Ponder (two RBIs) and Hayes led the way at the plate with three hits in the win and Riley Jackson, Peed, Jones and Hunter Howell each added hits for Cullman.

The Bearcats will be back at Bill Shelton Field for game three Friday night at 6 p.m.

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