E.A. Sports Today

Eagles soar behind sophomore

Casey throws complete-game shutout as Jacksonville clinches 4A playoff spot, puts pressure on White Plains to join it

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

WHITE PLAINS – Collin Casey pitched like a senior and his teammates treated him like a hero.

Casey threw a complete-game shutout and Jacksonville scored the only run of the game in the first inning to beat White Plains 1-0 Tuesday night and clinch a Class 4A playoff berth.

The sophomore right-hander who beat the Wildcats in a similarly tight game in the Calhoun County Tournament gave up two singles, walked five and struck out nine. His older teammates encouraged him through some difficult situations in the game and they all thought so much of his performance they tried to lift him in their post-game huddle as if they were going to carry him off.

“That was great,” Casey said. “For me being a sophomore, the first time seeing this, they’ve treated me like I’m a senior and I’ve been here before.

“Having those two seniors, (third baseman) Tyler Waugh and (second baseman) Tyler Carter, come up to me and say we all believe in you, that’s the biggest thing. I’m 15 years old, for them to believe in me like they do says something. Coach (David) Deerman many times could have taken me out of the game and he had faith in me and so did the players.”

Deerman said the thing that impressed him most about Casey’s gem was the numerous times the pitcher fell behind hitters and fought back to get outs. The Wildcats had runners in every inning, but had only two get as far as third base.

“When you shut out a team that hits it that good, he threw a pretty good game,” Deerman said.

The win took a lot of pressure off the team that got it. The Golden Eagles (17-5) will be playing Thursday for home-field advantage in the opening round of the playoffs, while the Wildcats have to win the game just to punch their playoff ticket.

If White Plains does win, the second game of the doubleheader will determine the Nos. 1 and 2 teams Class 4A Area 11. If the Wildcats’ lose, Cleburne County will slip into the second slot provided it sweeps Saks.

“That’s a big win right there because now we can just kind of pin our ears back a little bit,” Deerman said. “It’s a little different when you have to play and you have to win.”

Deerman wasn’t immediately certain who he’d pitch in the first game, but said he had confidence “in about six guys over there.” White Plains will hand the ball to Caleb Morrow.

“It was going to be tough on somebody,” Wildcats coach Chad Hudson said. “We’ll just go over there to win the first one, and if you win the first one you try to win two. Nothing really changes for us. We have a veteran team that understands the situation and we’ll be ready to play Thursday.”

White Plains pitcher Landon Price was just as impressive as Casey. He returned to the mound after a rough first inning last week against Cleburne County and allowed six hits while striking out six.

Three of Jacksonville’s hits came in the first inning to produce the game’s only run. Blake Morris singled home Sid Thurmond with two outs.

The Wildcats had Price’s tying run taken off the board on an inning-ending runner interference double play in the second inning. The play was rooted in Drew Hudson’s illegal pop-up slide at second on Taylor Morrow’s grounder to short.

The Wildcats were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

“That’s the story,” Hudson said. “Their guy (Casey) was great — hats off to him; he threw great and made pitches when he had to, but we were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and you’re not going to win baseball games doing that.

“Our guy was great. Landon threw as good as I’ve ever seen him throw. He swung the bat better than anybody else for us, too; he was awesome. But we were 0-for-8, and it wasn’t like it was a hard-luck 0-for-8.”

Jacksonville 1, White Plains 0

Jacksonville 100 000 0 — 1 6 1
White Plains 000 000 0 — 0 2 2

COLLIN CASEY and Blake Morris; LANDON PRICE and Storm Webb. WP: Casey. LP: Price.

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