E.A. Sports Today

Going the distance

Cleburne County senior throws more than 100 pitches in CG victory over J’ville; Oxford sweeps Huntsville, White Plains, Ohatchee win

Cleburne County senior right-hander Max Watson threw nearly 120 pitches in his complete game victory over Jacksonville. (Photo by Jonathan Fordham/J&E Art&Design)

Cleburne County senior right-hander Max Watson threw nearly 120 pitches in his complete game victory over Jacksonville. (Photo by Jonathan Fordham/J&E Art&Design)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

HEFLIN — Most pitchers who would’ve thrown as many as pitches as Cleburne County’s Max Watson did Tuesday night would be looking to pick their arm off the ground somewhere around the sixth inning.

The Tigers’ senior right-hander threw 116 pitches in beating Jacksonville 6-4, but, amazingly, as extended as he was in the area opener, he didn’t even go for the ice.

“I’ve learned to not worry about pitch count as much, just do my job,” Watson said. “Coach told me he needed me to go long, so I was going to take it as long as I could.

“We had a game plan to instead of going in the first part of the game throwing as hard as I could, just to pace myself. That’s been a good game plan I’ve had for the past two years, just to pace myself so I could go deeper in games.”

Watson has thrown an increasing number of pitches in each of his previous four starts, topping 90 his last time out. He was already over 100 pitches when he came out for the seventh inning against the Golden Eagles.

By his estimation he could have gone at least one more inning if the visitors would have tied it – and coach Vaughn Lee would have let him with no reservations.

“Max has been very limited on pitch count; we’ve been very strict on him for this reason,” Lee said. “I think 90, 91 is the most pitches he’s ever thrown this season and we also give him six days’ rest. We told him tonight all pitch counts are thrown out.

“We built it up for tonight. Tonight was huge; that’s what this whole season’s built up for. There have been times he wanted us to stretch him more, but we wouldn’t let him. We’ve been staying in the 75- to 90-pitch range every time, even if it cost us a game, for that game right there.”

Watson threw a lot of pitches in the first two innings, but it didn’t bother him. Jacksonville scored two in the first and had runners at first and third with none out, but Watson got out of it with no further damage. The Golden Eagles (7-3) threatened it in the second with runners at second and third with one out, but Watson got out of that unscathed.

The Tigers (7-7-1) got the two runs back in the home first, then took the lead for good in the second when Cade Clark, the No. 9 hitter, hit an 0-2 pitch for an RBI single. The Tigers scored in each of the first five innings.

“We got beat at every aspect of the game tonight from the plate to coaching to base running to executing at the plate,” Jacksonville coach David Deerman said. “I’ve got to a better job of coaching.”

Cleburne County 6, Jacksonville 4

Jacksonville 200 010 1 – 4 9 6
Cleburne Co. 211 110 x – 6 5 3

2B: Kane Aaron (J), Austin Lackey (J); Jordan Brown (CC), Dawson Howle (CC). 3B: Josh Davis (CC). WP: Max Watson. LP: Kane Aaron.

A Jacksonville runner gets back to the bag before Cleburne County first baseman Jordan Brown (2) can get down a tag. (Photo by Jonathan Fordham/J&E Art&Design)

A Jacksonville runner gets back to the bag before Cleburne County first baseman Jordan Brown (2) can get down a tag. (Photo by Jonathan Fordham/J&E Art&Design)

Oxford 8, Huntsville 7
Oxford 6, Huntsville 2

OXFORD — The Yellow Jackets improved to 6-0 in their new Choccolocco Park home with a sweep of a team that has several Division I prospects/signees on its roster.

Jacob Sears’ bases-loaded three-run double highlighted a four-run sixth-inning rally that lifted the Jackets (14-3) in the opener. Dillen Miller gave up one hit in five-plus innings and the Jackets broke open a tight nightcap with four runs on two hits in the fifth inning.

“I worry about being complacent,” Oxford coach Wes Brooks said. “Obviously, winning is a good thing, (it) definitely beats losing, but as a leader I’ve got to keep an eye out on our team getting complacent when we have a lot of success.

“Complacency is one of the top five reasons why people’s career derails. As a coach I’ve got to make sure our team understands it’s not how you start it’d how you finish in baseball and life and in relationships. There are still some areas in which we can grow and get better.

“I know the score on the scoreboard says we won the game, but I’ve got to make sure our players understand it’s about winning every pitch or winning the next pitch. There are a lot of pitches we’ve lost over the last several games … so we really do not need to focus on the score on the scoreboard. We need to put our focus on winning the next pitch or winning every pitch.”

Chance Adams and Brennan McCullough both had two hits for Oxford in the opener.

Nate Lloyd had two hits for the Jackets in the nightcap and Trey Hopper drove in two runs. Huntsville’s only hit in the nightcap was Mississippi State-signee Douglas Ashcraft’s two-run, bases-loaded single with one out in the sixth that got Miller out of the game.

Oxford 8, Huntsville 7

Huntsville 011 302 0 – 7 10 4
Oxford 010 124 x – 8 8 3

2B: Colton Edwards (H), Douglas Ashcraft (H), Colton Schultz (H); Jacob Sears (O). WP: Andy Hammond. LP: Christian Macleod. S: Trey Hopper.

Oxford 6, Huntsville 2

Huntsville 000 002 0 – 2 1 2
Oxford 010 041 x – 6 4 2

2B: Jacob Sears (O). WP: Dillen Miller. LP: Brady Staup.

White Plains 7, Saks 6

Andrew Cronan went 4-for-4 and two White Plains pitchers combined to strike out nine as the visiting Wildcats held off a late Saks rally to win their area opener and keep pace with Cleburne County.

Jake Spivey had two hits for White Plains, which carried a 7-3 lead into the bottom of the sixth.

Ohatchee 5, Weaver 2

WEAVER – Jaylon Jenkins hit a long opposite-field solo homer leading off the sixth inning, Taylor Eubanks had a pair of extra-base hits and starting pitcher Micah Lee struck out seven in three shutout innings.

Chase Widgeon’s two-run double highlighted a three-run fourth inning that put the Indians on top for good. Eubanks had an RBI double in the fourth and triple right after Jenkins’ homer.

Drake Monroe hit a solo homer for Weaver. He had two hits

Ohatchee 5, Weaver 2

Ohatchee 000 302 0 – 5 7 0
Weaver 000 100 1 – 2 5 1

2B: Taylor Eubanks (O), Chase Widgeon (O), Tyler Perez (W). 3B: Taylor Eubanks (O). HR: Jaylon Jenkins (O), Drake Monroe (W). WP: Micah Lee. LP: Josh Langley. S: Blayde Crump.

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