E.A. Sports Today

Eagles survive, advance

Jacksonville rallies from 3-run deficit in opener, holds on after leading by 7 in the nightcap

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — The key to a long life in any playoff situation is survive and advance.

Jacksonville did both Monday night in its Class 4A baseball series and lives to face a familiar foe.

The Golden Eagles (22-5) survived two games with Cherokee County, winning 9-8 in the bottom of the seventh and surviving a seventh-inning Warrior rally to complete the sweep 8-6.

They will host area rival Cleburne County (15-9) later this week. They took two of three from the Tigers earlier this season.

“The first game we kind of gutted it out … and found a way to win it late,” Jacksonville coach David Deerman said. “This second one we had them down for a while but we didn’t finish the game very well. I think we got a little too satisfied.

“This is the playoffs and the most important thing is to get to the next round. We didn’t finish it well, we’re going to talk about that. You’ve got to keep your foot on the gas in the playoffs because teams are in a do or die situation — they’re going to fight until the end … and we ended up fighting for our lives.”

The Golden Eagles had an 8-1 lead in the sixth inning of the nightcap, but the Warriors rallied late and had the tying runs in scoring position in the seventh with one out.

“We laid down a little bit,” second-game starter Sid Thurmond said. “That’s what we’ve got to focus on — we’ve got to finish games. Don’t lay up, we’ve got to step on their throats.”

Austin Lackey drove in five runs in the opener, including the game-winner on a bloop single into shallow right with two outs. It scored Thurmond from second base.

“That walk-off, glad Sid’s fast,” Lackey said.

Lackey also tied the game 5-5 with a bases-loaded, three-run double in the fifth after the Golden Eagles had trailed 2-0 and 5-1. The Warriors went back on top 8-5, but Jacksonville tied it in the sixth with runs scoring on a error by the pitcher, Lackey’s RBI single and Blake Morris’ sacrifice fly.

The game appeared headed for extra innings as the Warriors’ Preston Grimes retired the first two Jacksonville hitters of the seventh. Then Thurmond reached on an error, Josh Glass was hit by a pitch and Lackey followed his game-winner.

“His first plate approach I didn’t think he saw the ball good; he got caught guessing a couple times,” Deerman said. “We talked about it. (We) thought he made a great adjustment at the plate and had a big night after that.”

Lackey had five hits in the doubleheader. Glass had three hits in the nightcap.

The Eagles carried a 8-2 lead into the seventh when Deerman lifted Thurmond after more than 100 pitches. The Warriors put their first five hitters of the seventh on against Kane Aaron, scoring four runs.

Tyler Carter got out of it with an infield out, a hit batsman after the Warriors were caught batting out of order, a strikeout and game-ending foul pop to the catcher on a payoff pitch.

Cherokee County’s Christian Stintson kept the Golden Eagles from inflicting any damage in the late innings. He pitched 2 2-3 innings of scoreless relief, striking out seven, including the first five batters he faced.

“We kind of got a little lazy,” Lackey said. “But we still got (the win).”

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