E.A. Sports Today

Bulldogs transition well

Piedmont moves from court to diamond, wins County Tournament opener

By Brant Locklier
For East Alabama Sports Today

ALEXANDRIA – Practice? Practice? Who needs practice?

Piedmont coach James Blanchard was a happy man Saturday as seven players from the school’s state runner-up basketball team returned to the baseball diamond – one day after playing in the state title game — helped the Bulldogs take a well-played 7-1 victory from Wellborn in the second round of the Calhoun County Tournament.

The second-seeded Bulldogs carried a perfect game into the seventh inning. They now play third-seeded Alexandria in Monday’s 4:30 p.m. semifinal.

“We’ve got seven guys who have been playing basketball and have not picked up a bat or ball and came out today and played real well,” Blanchard said. “They took a little infield and a little BP and then they just started playing.

“I am real proud of the guys. They are just athletes and it also shows what kind of kids they are.”

Part of the reason the Bulldogs were installed as the No. 2 seed was to give them a first-round bye to accommodate the possibility of them playing in Friday’s Class 3A state championship basketball game. They did play in the game and lost to Madison Academy 75-51.

Once they returned to the diamond, Bayley Blanchard took his first at-bat and rocketed a double into the outfield to drive in the Bulldogs’ first run.

The game started out as a duel between non-basketball Piedmont pitcher Peyton Whitten and Landon Machristie.

Blanchard scored the Bulldogs’ second run when Machristie made a bad toss to first on a one-hopper to the mound. A dropped fly by in the outfield allowed another run to score. Machristie ended up going six innings for the Panthers, allowing six hits and striking out eight.

Whitten, meanwhile, was brilliant on the mound. He retired the first 12 Panthers hitters and struck out the last five he faced. He ended up with nine strikeouts of the 12 hitters he faced.

Taylor Hayes was perfect through the fifth and sixth, striking out three. Blanchard came on to pitch the seventh and Brett Deal broke up the perfect game with a single. Deal came around to score on T.J. Sellers.

Alexandria 11, Ohatchee 0

The Valley Cubs came out blazing with the bats, gloves and arms and no-hit the Indians.

They jumped out early with six runs in the home first. Riley Shaw, Jacob Heathcock and Cody Dodd drew walks and Dalton Cobb, Dakota Kelley, Will Reaves and Chance Williams all had hits as the Cubs sent 10 batters to the plate.

Williams ended up with five RBIs, as he had a three-run double in the first and a two-run single in the third.

Three Cubs pitchers combined for the five-inning no-hitter. Justin Whitley was perfect in the first two innings with four strikeouts. Cody Dodd pitched the next two, striking out three. Will Reaves pitched the fifth inning and struck out two.

”We were just trying to get our reps in, but we really played well,” Cubs coach Andy Shaw said. “We hit the ball well, had good defense and really good pitching.”

Wellborn 11, Pleasant Valley 6

The Panthers had 19 base runners in six innings and got four strong innings from starter Ethan Beadles to roll past the Raiders.

All nine Wellborn hitters reached base with either a hit or a walk. Landon Machristie’s two-run single in the first inning got things going for the Panthers. Jacob Sears singled home two runs, Kevin Mixon drove in two runs with a single and Kevin Mixon had an RBI double and Brandt Denham slammed a triple as the Panthers scored six times in the fourth to go up 8-0.

Lead-off hitter Mixon, the point guard on the Panthers’ basketball team, had two singles, a double, a walk and scored three runs. Basketball teammates Machristie and Blake Hanson had two hits apiece.

“I was real proud of our boys,” Wellborn coach Shane Harrell said. “I wish we could have gotten more of those base runners around to score, but it was just our first game.”

Beadles pitched one-hit baseball over the first four innings before being lifted. He struck out three, walked three and hit one, but managed to keep the ball low and worked his way out of some jams.

“Beadles had been on this week, when we have been able to get in some work,” Harrell said. “When we put him out there, he just does what we ask him to and we could not be happier with his work today.”

Pleasant Valley could only bang out four hits by Elijah Borders, Nick Howard, R.J. Simpson and Nick O’Dell. Borders was the losing pitcher for the Raiders.

Weaver 7, Saks 4

It was the fourth inning, the bases were loaded, the 4-0 lead was 4-3 and there were no outs. The Bearcats went to ace lefty Jake Garrick to put out the fire.

And Garrett did just that, striking out the side to hold the lead – and then he hung around for some more.

Garrick pitched three strong innings, striking out six, before turning it over to Cody Ortiz, who pitched a scoreless seventh inning to pick up a save.

”Jake is one of our seniors and he has been with us a while,” Weaver coach David Beegle said. “Anytime we get in trouble or need a big game he will come up big for us.”

Weaver scratched out two runs in each of the first and third innings to lead 4-0. Dean Munroe, Josh Langley and Dalton Hamby had run-scoring singles and Hamby had a fielder’s choice RBI on a grounder to short.

Saks mounted a comeback in the fourth off tough-luck starter Langley. The Wildcats took advantage of three Weaver errors, two hit batters and a walk to cut the lead to one before Garrick was called on to shut them down. The Bearcats rewarded Garrick with two runs of breathing room in the bottom of the fourth.

T.J. Thompson went 2-for-3 and a walk to lead the Bearcats. Munroe had two walks to go with his single and scored three runs.

“We have five kids who have never played a varsity baseball game and we have been trying to teach the kids that they need to play every play and that it matters,” Beegle said. “I cost us a run or two today, but we are a scrappy bunch.”

On the cover: Piedmont pitcher Peyton Whitten (blue shirt) mingles with friends during his college signing party earlier this school year.

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