E.A. Sports Today

Another tough day

Bulldogs overcoming hurdles to re-establish baseball program; making some progress, but big inning still proving to be their downfall

Anniston baseball coach Paul Farlow watches as catcher Jimmy Felton gets his gear on between innings. On the cover, the Bulldogs huddle to break down the day's game.

Anniston baseball coach Paul Farlow watches as catcher Jimmy Felton gets his gear on between innings. On the cover, the Bulldogs huddle to break down the day’s game.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Paul Farlow used to coach baseball at Anniston High School at a time when the Bulldogs gave everyone on their schedule a game and their players had access to things they don’t anymore.

He’s back in the third-base coach’s box with the Bulldogs this year, but nearly 20 years later things aren’t quite the same.

The infield at old Johnston Field is in pretty nice shape thanks to the help of friends of the program like former Jacksonville State coach Rudy Abbott, but the bleachers are falling in on themselves and the lights haven’t shone on an evening practice in a while.

The Bulldogs barely have enough players to cobble together a lineup. The ones who are out there struggle with even the simplest of fundamentals because the city abandoned its age-group baseball programs several years ago and those players don’t have access to the elite travel programs.

“It’s a lot different than when I did it back in the 90s,” Farlow said Saturday after another tough day on the diamond. “We had some kids who grew up in the (rec) leagues. Now, there are no park-and-recreation leagues, so we’re getting kids who never played baseball.

“They’re athletic, some of them, but to play baseball you have to grow up playing it. We’re having to teach them stuff they should’ve learned back when they we’re 10, 11 years old. We’re coaching on the fly. But they’re learning and the attitude for the most part is good and I can work with that.”

It was another tough day for the Bulldogs Saturday. A promising start on a blustery day gave way to a big inning that has typified the season and they lost to Faith Christian 16-3 in another five-inning game.

Two years ago the team won eight games, but it hasn’t won since and it’s in a losing streak going on 20 games.

They’ve come close. They had Jacksonville Christian 6-4 in the sixth earlier this year before losing 7-6. They’ve had the lead in each of their last four games, but the big inning has been their downfall.

Jamari West’s RBI single gave them a 1-0 lead in the first inning Saturday, but Faith took advantage of starter Tae Bush losing his focus and the plate after two good innings to build a 13-run third that decided the game.

The Lions (4-5) sent 19 batters to the plate against three pitchers in their big inning. The first 13 batters reached base before an out was recorded on a fielder’s choice. There were seven walks, three hit batsmen and four runs came home on wild pitches.

“When we have a bad inning, we have a bad inning,” Farlow said. “Because they’ve been beaten so bad, when something bad happens, it’s not one wheel that comes off, it’s all four. If we can eliminate the big inning and keep on we’ve got a chance.”

It’s not easy being a baseball player at Anniston. The sport is overshadowed by football, basketball and even track and even when it does get talked about the conversation usually doesn’t have pleasant overtones.

”A lot of people don’t have faith in us, for real,” said Bush, a senior who only plays baseball and was on that last Anniston team that won. “There’s a lot of pressure on us to change the program around. They wonder why I play. They always down us, saying we’re always losing. I just keep the faith because I love this team.”

Sophomore first baseman Tye Williams said a little encouragement goes a long way and Farlow takes every opportunity to deliver some. Just last week the program received some additional support in the form of a $1,000 grant from a Birmingham television station.

“I tell the guys we’ve been good before, we want to try to get back that way; learn to compete and get back to where it was back in the day,” Farlow said. “We’re getting better but we’ve just got so far to go. We’re trying to keep the kids positive. The way they’ve been beat it’s easy to get down, but if we can do that we’ll be OK.”

The Anniston dugout manages to keep a good attitude despite being down on the scoreboard. Tae Bush (in glasses) pitched two good innings before it got away from him in the third.

The Anniston dugout manages to keep a good attitude despite being down on the scoreboard. Tae Bush (in glasses) pitched two good innings before it got away from him in the third.

Oxford 7, Mountain Brook 6 (8 inns.)

OXFORD – Nate Lloyd singled home Austin Bolander and Brody Syer with none out in the eighth inning to give the Yellow Jackets a dramatic victory.

The Jackets staged rallies in the seventh and eighth innings to keep their overall winning streak and their undefeated streak in Choccolocco Park alive.

Chance Adams’ two-out, two-run double capped a five-run rally in the seventh that tied the game. The Jackets proceeded to load the bases after the big hit, but couldn’t get the winning run home.

Mountain Brook manufactured a run in the top of the eight. Oxford set up Adams’ game-winning hit with a walk to Bolander and a Syer single. Syer went to second on the attempt to get Bolander at third.

Oxford 9, Homewood 5

OXFORD – Nate Lloyd went 2-for-3 with three RBIs and Jacob Sears and Andy Hammond each drove in two runs as the Yellow Jackets completed the day’s sweep to remain undefeated at Choccolocco Park (8-0).

Instead of waiting to the end like in the opener, the Jackets did all their damage in the first three innings, opening a 9-0 lead. Five different players drove in runs in a five-run second that broke it open.

Lloyd, Sears, Hammond and Brennan McCullough had two hits apiece.

Jacksonville 8, Ashville 7

JACKSONVILLE – The seventh-ranked Golden Eagles broke a 6-6 tie in the home sixth with runs on a passed ball and wild pitch and then held off a rally in the seventh.

The Golden Eagles matched Ashville in the bottom of each inning the Bulldogs scored, getting two in the first and four in the fifth. Colin Casey had game-tying singles in both innings.

Casey and Austin Lackey each had two hits and two RBIs. Aaron Bragg threw a complete game in getting the win.

Jacksonville 10, Weaver 3

JACKSONVILLE – Austin Lackey’s two-run single and Colin Casey’s RBI double highlighted a five-run sixth inning that allowed the Golden Eagles to extend their lead.

Lackey went 2-for-4 with four RBIs in the game and Casey had three hits. Kane Aaron pitched into the seventh, giving up two earned runs on eight hits and striking out four.

Dalton Hamby went 3-for-4 and Tyrik Hall had a two-run single in the seventh for Weaver.

Piedmont 10, Gadsden City 4 (8 inns.)

GADSDEN – Bailey Blanchard, Taylor Hayes and Mason Mohon all hit two-run doubles in an eight-run eighth inning that lifted Piedmont to the victory.

The Bulldogs sent 13 batters to the plate in the inning. Derrick Baer’s RBI single broke the 2-2 tie, Blanchard extended the lead with his double and Hayes and Mohon hit their doubles back-to-back later in the inning. Mohon’s was his second double of the inning.

Easton Kirk went the distance to get the win. He threw 109 pitches, 74 for strikes. He struck out seven.

“I think we’re turning the corner after a slow start because of basketball,” Piedmont coach James Blanchard said.

The timing couldn’t be better. The Bulldogs open area play next week against Wellborn.

Dadeville 10, Piedmont 9 (8 inns.)

GADSDEN – Ethan Towne drew a bases-loaded walk from Mason Mohon with one out in the eighth inning to push across the winning run.

The Tigers took a 9-6 lead with a six-run fourth inning, but Piedmont tied the game in the seventh on Ry Atkins’ one-out RBI single. Atkins had two hits and two RBIs in the game.

Bayley Blanchard went 4-for-5 and gave the Bulldogs their first lead with a two-run single in the second inning.


Faith Christian 16, Anniston 3
Faith 00(13) 30 – 16 8 0
Anniston 100 20 – 3 6 2

WP: Michael Kulick. LP: Tae Bush. 2B: Riley Camp (F), Tae Bush (A). 3B: Jack Sills (F), Tye Williams (A).

Oxford 7, Mountain Brook 6
Mountain Brook 002 110 11 – 6 6 2
Oxford 000 000 52 – 7 8 4

WP: Jacob Sears. LP: Jeffcoat. 2B: Colton Yeager (H), Chance Adams (O). 3B: Hartman (H), Nate Lloyd (O).

Oxford 9, Homewood 5
Homewood 000 302 0 – 5 11 2
Oxford 153 000 x – 9 10 3

WP: Austin Bolander. LP: Jacob Fitts. 2B: John Wildman (H), John Mark Mullins (H), Nate Lloyd (O), Andy Hammond (O). 3B: Jacob Sears (O).

Piedmont 10, Gadsden City 4
Piedmont 020 000 08 – 10 10 1
Gadsden City 100 001 02 – 4 7 3

WP: Easton Kirk. LP: Hudson James. 2B: Bayley Blanchard (P), Taylor Hayes (P), Derrick Baer (P), Mason Mohon 2 (P), Trace Cromer (G), Nick Warsham (G).

Dadeville 10, Piedmont 9
Piedmont 032 102 10 – 9 13 4
Dadeville 102 600 01 – 10 11 2

WP: Ab Abernathy. LP: Mason Mohon. 2B: Bayley Blanchard (P), Easton Kirk (P), Kyle Harkins (D), Cal Jones (D).

Jacksonville 8, Ashville 7
Ashville 200 040 1 – 7 8 0
Jacksonville 200 042 x – 8 5 5

Jacksonville 10, Weaver 3
Jacksonville 210 015 1 – 10 8 4
Weaver 000 010 2 – 3 8 2

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