E.A. Sports Today

Lions final a fast one

Pitchers dominate East-West All-Star game that takes less than two hours to play

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

ATTALLA – The people who consider baseball too slow to hold their interest should have been at Larry Foster Field here Monday night.

The final game of the Lions Club’s high school baseball series was a veritable sprint, with the East beating the West 2-0 in a nine-inning game that took one hour, 58 minutes from first pitch to final out.

They may have been “East” on the scoreboard, but the winners were a collection of prep stars from Lawrence, Limestone and Morgan counties – well west of the West team comprised of players largely from Calhoun and Etowah county schools.

“It was quick,” said Piedmont coach James Blanchard, who had the West team. “The thing about this is when you get all these guys together from different teams … they swing at that first pitch. You don’t want to get onto them because you want them to have fun, but they’re swinging at that first pitch, so usually that’s the one they’re either going to hit or roll the ball and get out with.”

With that approach at the plate, it certain turned out to be a good night for the pitchers. The East had only four hits off Blanchard’s arms, and none over the last five innings. The West had nine hits, but couldn’t push across a run.

Blanchard used eight pitchers, giving each an inning after Pell City’s Chase Robinson worked the first two. Oxford’s Jake Cook had the best of it. He pitched the third and, throwing mostly fastballs, struck out the side and allowed an infield single.

“I just tried to go out there and throw my best stuff,” said Cook, who missed getting an award at Oxford’s spring sports banquet to pitch in the game. “My slider wasn’t as good today, but my fastball was up there and the velocity was up there today.

“I could beat a lot of guys with my fastball. I snuck in two fastballs to a lot of hitters with the first two pitches and the catcher helped me out by giving me off-speed when it was two strikes and I could shake it off so they thought it was going to be an off-speed coming and we just threw another fastball up and got a lot of hitters.”

Oxford teammates Trey Hopper and Andy Hammond both threw one inning and retired their sides in order.

The winners scored both their runs in the fourth inning. Phillip Goodwin of Priceville drew a leadoff walk and scored from third on a wild pitch, and Cole Jackson of East Lawrence scored on an infield error.

The home team appeared to have a rally going in the eighth. Westbrook Christian’s Tanner Kennedy led off with a double and moved to third on Hammond’s single up the middle. But the threat was squelched when Hopper lined into a double play.

Hammond had two of his team’s hits and that has him anxious to start summer work.

”It’s getting there,” he said. “That’s where I need to go this summer and start working on being that hitter that everybody’s like ‘He’s pretty good.’ I’ve just got to get to that point. It might look like I’m doing good right now, but I feel like I can do better.”

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