E.A. Sports Today

Valley Cubs celebrate title

Alexandria rallies to take down Oxford 10-4 in County Tournament final

Alexandria's Justin Whitley pitched 3 1-3 innings of strong relief to give the Valley Cubs a chance to rally. (Photo by Brant Locklier)

Alexandria’s Justin Whitley pitched 3 1-3 innings of strong relief to give the Valley Cubs a chance to rally. (Photo by Brant Locklier)

By Brant Locklier
For East Alabama Sports Today

ALEXANDRIA — The Alexandria Valley Cubs rallied from a two-run deficit with three runs in the fifth and five in the seventh to rally past defending champion Oxford 10-4 and capture their second Calhoun County Baseball Tournament title in the last three years.

It was the two best teams in the county that stood toe-to-toe Monday night. Both teams had eased into the finals of the rain-plagued tournament with relative ease setting the stage for the championship game played in a light misty rain at times.

It was the Class 6A confident, intense, big-city boys from Oxford and the 5A, just-as-confident and business-like country boys from Alexandria that squared off before a large crowd huddled under umbrellas most of the night.

You could cut the intensity with a knife and it was Oxford that blinked most of the night with a lot of little plays it did not make that cost it early. The Yellow Jackets had the bases loaded with one out in the first and hit two one-hoppers to the mound and did not get a run home.

The Jackets had a runner picked off first in the second and another doubled off second on a fly to right center that ended the inning. They had another runner picked off in the fourth and two throwing errors and a wild pitch staked Alexandria to a 2-0 lead after three innings.

It was a brilliant pitching duel for three innings as Oxford’s Dillen Miller and Alexandria’s Cody Dodd went at it with great intensity. The fans and coaches were offering their support and criticism on every pitch. Oxford’s Andy Hammond made a spectacular diving catch in left field in the second inning to save a run.

Oxford finally quit hurting itself in the top of the fourth and got its bats going. Hammond reached on a hard hit infield single to get it started. Brody Syer slapped a double into the right-centerfield gap and Trey Hopper got Hammond home on an infield single. Chad Adams tied the game with a sacrifice fly to right.

The Valley Cubs then hurt themselves with a throwing error by the catcher after a single by Jake Cook. Oxford’s third run came on a balk when Dodd slipped off the mound trying to make a pitch. A single by Austin Bolander put Oxford ahead 4-2 and knocked Dodd out of the game as Valley Cubs coach Andy Shaw went to his big lefthander, Justin Whitley.

It turned out to be the best decision he made in the game.

Whitley, who pitched flawlessly in the entire tournament, promptly picked off Bolander to end the inning.

The Valley Cubs then went to work. Each batter began to battle, fouling off pitches and working deep into the count until they got a pitch to hit — and then they hit it.

After Chance Williams led off with a single, Oxford coach Wes Brooks brought in Cook to try and stop anything from getting started. Dodd then smacked a two-out single up the middle to cut the lead to 4-3.

Whitley kept the inning alive with a single to right. Will Reaves ripped a shot into right field that rolled all the way to the fence for a triple and the Valley Cubs had regained the lead at 5-4.

Whitley came back out for the fifth and sixth inning blazing as the lefty faced five left-handed hitters in his next six batters. He struck out five of them. Six of the 12 batters he faced were lefties.

“I personally do not like facing left-hand hitters,” Whitley said. “I like to throw to right-handers because I can drop my change in on them.”

The Valley Cubs went into the seventh with a 5-4 lead needing some insurance, and got plenty of it, leaving their crowd standing in appreciation.

Two walks, two hit-batsmen, a triple and two singles pushed the lead to 10-4 going to the bottom of the seventh. When Whitley coaxed Hammond into a third-out grounder to short, the Valley Cubs had captured another Calhoun County Championship.

Whitley picked up the win as he pitched 3 1-3 innings, striking out six, walking two and allowing no earned runs. He also was named Outstanding Defensive Player in the tournament.

“Whitley was something,” Shaw said. “He just shut them down. He is a tough battler, a competitor and we are just glad to have him on the mound.”

All nine Valley Cub starters had a hit in the game as they rattled Oxford pitching for 12 hits and four walks. Six Valley Cubs had RBIs as no one was an easy out.

”That is what we hoped for,” Shaw said. “We talked about mental toughness and playing the game the right way no matter what the circumstances are. They really answered the bell tonight and I am so proud of the way they played and these kids winning the County Championship.

“We try to have good at bats and then get better as the game goes on and tonight they responded to that.”

Alexandria shortstop Dalton Cobb was selected the Most Valuable Player of the tournament. Oxford’s Jacob Sears was the Outstanding Offensive Player in the tournament.

”It means a lot to us to win the County,” Cobb said. “We’ve got some real good guys here; we knew what we had going into this game and that we were going to have to play our very best to beat Oxford. This is a real close team and we came together to win the title. It felt real good out there. This is going to help us out down the road in the rest of our season.”

”I hope this is not the pinnacle of our season,” Shaw said, “but that we can build on this and use it the rest of the way.”

All-Tournament Team: Caleb Morrow, White Plains; Peyton Whitten, Piedmont; Michael Cherry, Ohatchee; Dillen Miller, Oxford; Andy Hammond, Oxford; Kevin Carr, White Plains; Sid Thurmond, Jacksonville; Brody Syer, Oxford; Austin Bolander, Oxford; Cale McCord, Piedmont; Dakota Kelley, Alexandria; Chance Williams, Alexandria; Aaron Bragg, Jacksonville; Derrik Turner, Alexandria; Cody Dodd, Alexandria.

Outstanding Offensive Player: Jacob Sears, Oxford
Outstanding Defensive Player: Justin Whitley, Alexandria
Most Valuable Player: Dalton Cobb, Alexandria

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