E.A. Sports Today

Piedmont’s Jones a big-hit Hunter

Bulldogs’ DH delivers in 10th; roundup includes baseball, softball, soccer

By East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – Piedmont baseball coach James Blanchard put the bug in Hunter Jones’ ear long before the Bulldogs’ designated hitter came to the plate in the 10th inning Thursday.

“I told him if I’m going to play you in the designated hitter spot, you’ve got to swing the bat,” Blanchard said.

Jones went to the plate in the 10th in an aggressive frame of mind and delivered a tie-breaking RBI double to lift the Bulldogs over Jacksonville 4-3 at Henry Farm Park.

“He didn’t swing it too well early, but he came up with a big hit,” Blanchard said.

Because of the uncertainty of the weather against the schedule going forward, Blanchard planned to “pitch everybody” in the game. He used three — Tyler Lusk, Peyton Whitten and Taylor Hayes – and would’ve used a fourth if it had gone any longer. As it was he extended Hayes to five innings of relief.

Lusk pitched three perfect innings to open the game. Whitten allowed a hit, an unearned run and struck out four in two innings. Hayes gave up a leadoff single in the 10th, two runs and struck out four.

“We pitched really, really good,” Blanchard said. “We’ve got to play Saturday so I wanted to get all my pitchers some work. Finally, I told Hayes I might have to keep him out there longer than I wanted to, to save Bayley (Blanchard) if this game went past the 10th inning.

“I was real pleased with our pitching tonight (but) we struggled at the plate; we’ve got to fix that. We’ve got to find that groove in hitting. We were at this same point last year; the only thing that bothers me is we haven’t played as many games.”

Jacksonville tied the game 3-3 with two runs in the sixth off Hayes and it stayed that way until the 10th.

Easton Kirk was hit by a pitch to open the 10th and he moved to second on an error. He went to third on Hayes’ infield out and three batters later scored on Jones’ double.

The Golden Eagles got the tying run to second in the bottom of the inning with one out, but Hayes got out of the jam with an infield pop and game-ending strikeout.

Oscar Young went 4-for-4 for the Bulldogs. Sid Thurmond and Blake Morris had Jacksonville’s two hits.

White Plains 11, Weaver 1 (6 inns.)
White Plains 12, Weaver 2 (5 inns.)

WHITE PLAINS – The Wildcats got two strong pitching performances and ton of hitting in sweeping Weaver.

Freshman Andrew Cronan gave up four runs and one run in his second solid varsity start in the opener. He walked two and struck out four. Jackson Wilkinson gave up four hits, one earned run and struck out six without walking a batter in the nightcap.

Drew Hudson, another freshman, went 3-for-4 with two RBIs in the opener for White Plains (10-4), while he was one of five Wildcats with two hits in the nightcap.

Caleb Morrow had two hits and two RBIs and Dillon Greenwood had two hits and two stolen bases in the opener. Noah Turner, Kevin Carr, Branson Oliver and freshman Andrew Norrad joined Hudson with two hits in the nightcap.

Josh Langley had two hits for the Bearcats in the opener and Jake Garrick had two hits and an RBI for them in the nightcap.

SOFTBALL

Jacksonville 10, Saks 0

JACKSONVILLE – Reagan Stallings allowed one hit in five innings and the Golden Eagles broke open a game it already had under control with five runs in the fourth inning to pick up an area victory.

Stallings gave up a first-inning single, struck out four and got plenty of support from her teammates. Senior Ashton Gaddy went 3-for-3 with three doubles and three RBIs. Kaila Barnes and Caitlyn Ryan each had two hits.

“My girls played a great game tonight,” Jacksonville coach C.J. Boyd said. “We were focused and ready to play. We took a very disciplined approach at the plate and did not swing at bad pitches.”

Gaddy’s first double drove in two runs in a three-run first inning. With Stallings dominant in the circle, the lead was never threatened.

“Reagan did a good job in the circle,” Boyd said. “She had good movement on the ball tonight.”

Faith Christian 8, Jacksonville Christian 0

JACKSONVILLE – Freshman Presley Whitten threw her second straight shutout, giving up two hits and striking out 11. She fanned two in each of the first three innings.

“She is really pitching well; keeping the ball down,” Faith coach Bradley Dawson said. “She hasn’t had a fly ball in three or four games.”

Logan Byrd had two hits for the Lions (2-6).

BOYS SOCCER

Faith Christian 6, Jacksonville 3

Tyler Johnson scored four goals and Josiah McDaniel and Daniel Clark had one each for the undefeated Lions (3-0). McDaniel, Andrew Gattrell, Coby Booth, Ruston Rigsby and Nathan Bedford all had assists.

Andrew Staples, Alex King and Kale Rowan had goals for 10th-ranked Jacksonville (3-2).

“We’ve had a solid rivalry with Jacksonville over the years,” Faith coach Erik McDaniel said. “They are always strong, always fast, always physical and have a wonderful winning tradition up there, so to beat a program like Jacksonville is quite an accomplishment.”

There are a lot of connections between the teams. Several players from both teams are teammates on the Anniston Storm travel team. Faith assistant Dylan Johnson (Tyler’s cousin) is former Jacksonville player who played one season for McDaniel before their family moved.

“It’s fun to see the respect the players have for each other because they’re teammates for half the year,” McDaniel said.

POLLS

Take them for whatever you think they’re worth, but the first statewide prep spring sports polls are out.

County Tournament champion Alexandria is the only Calhoun County team ranked in the baseball polls – at No. 4 in Class 5A. Oxford (6A) and Piedmont (3A) were nominated.

Pleasant Valley is No. 8 in the Class 3A softball poll Alexandria (5A), White Plains (4A), Piedmont (3A), were nominated.

Undefeated Jacksonville is ranked No. 1 in the 4A-5A girls soccer poll, while the Golden Eagles’ boys are ranked 10th.

Spring sports coaches, report your game results to East Alabama Sports Today either by texting 256-239-6715 or emailing musky@wrightmediacorp.com. East Alabama Sports Today is a free website dedicated to covering local sports in and around Calhoun County.



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