E.A. Sports Today

It’s clinching time

Cleburne County, Alexandria, Ragland clinch top spot in their areas; Piedmont, Oxford sweep, Donoho wins

White Plains third baseman Andrew Norred chases down Cleburne County's Kade Clark (4), who had overrun the bag in the second inning. On the cover, Tigers winning pitcher Jordan Brown looks in for a sign.

White Plains third baseman Andrew Norred chases down Cleburne County’s Kade Clark (4), who had overrun the bag in the second inning. On the cover, Tigers winning pitcher Jordan Brown looks in for a sign.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

HEFLIN — Jordan Brown admitted the significance of the game and the idea one mistake could ruin it was in the back of his mind, but he tried not to think about it.

Cleburne County baseball coach Vaughn Lee handed Brown the ball in a Game 2 of an area series once again Thursday and the sophomore right-hander tried to go about it like it was just another game.

He went the distance, giving up three hits, striking out nine and pitching out of sixth-inning jam, as the Tigers won 2-1 to clinch the 4A Area 11 title. They followed it with a 12-2 win in the nightcap of the doubleheader to sweep the series.

“Twice we’ve called on him to win Game 2 in an area series,” Lee said. “He had good stuff today. He wasn’t in a must win right there, but it’s nice to get him in that one.”

Brown got the ball in Game 2 of the Jacksonville series before spring break and got control of the game to give the Tigers a chance to win the series.

In his latest start he issued a leadoff walk that turned into a first-inning run, but basically stayed on top of the Wildcats. The only trouble he ran into came in the sixth when White Plains loaded the bases, but he got out of the jam with an inning-ending strikeout.

“The first inning I was a little bit nervous but I knew I was playing with a team that would play behind me so I just had to go out there and fill it up,” Brown said. “I got a little nervous in the sixth when they got two runners on, but my coach came out there and said just settle down and throw your game and I did.”

The Tigers used the versatility of their roster to win this one. The game was tied at 1 in the fourth when Lee sent three pinch-hitters to the plate and they produced the go-ahead run.

Macain Carlile, who was being DH’d for, batted and drew a one-out walk to get it started. He advanced on a bunt single by Trevor Houston, who was batting for contact hitter Max Watson and courtesy ran in the first, and scored on Nick Dunston’s two-out single to right.

“This is a tight team chemistry wise, better than any team I’ve ever had,” Lee said. “We’re sitting here in a situation at the end with our sixth and seventh hitters where we don’t which one to use – we can put them both in depending on the situation. We have several options and had them all open. Everything played out like we wanted to. There were probably 12 kids who contributed very much so there.”

Before Dunston hit, Dawson Howle batted for Kade Clark and hit a rocket that if not for third baseman Andrew Norred there’s no telling how big an inning it could’ve been. snared. Norred made so many big defensive plays for White Plains in the game one of the Cleburne County coaches couldn’t avoid saying something to him.

White Plains coach Wes Henderson considered the game a must-win situation for his team’s playoff hopes. And while the Wildcats played better defense than they had in a while — they turned three double plays — Henderson lamented they gave up too many base running “freebies” and were unable to get the timely hit.

The loss, combined with Jacksonville’s 10-0 series-clinching win over Saks, forces the Wildcats to win their series with the Golden Eagles next week to secure the area’s second playoff spot.

“It’s big, but we’re not going to treat it like its any bigger than what it is,” Henderson said. “It’s a baseball game and we’re going to go out and play. We’ll have our best guy going, they’ll have their best guy going and we’re just going to battle.”

The Tigers took control of the nightcap with seven runs in the first two innings. They erupted for six in the second, highlighted by Damian Benefield’s two-run single and Howle’s three-run double.

Brock Swafford went 3-for-4 with four RBIs, Noah Gaines went 3-for-3 and Howle had four RBIs.

Alexandria 6, St. Clair County 0: Cody Dodd struck out nine in a five-hit shutout and hit his fourth home run of the season as the Valley Cubs clinched the 5A Area 12 title.

Dodd gave up a leadoff single, then struck out the next four batters he faced, the first three on nine pitches. He allowed only two runners to reach scoring position. He threw 81 pitches, 62 for strikes.

The Cubs took control of the game with a five-run third inning. They sent 10 batters to the plate. Riley Shaw, Jacob Heathcock, Griffin Carroll and Will Reaves collected RBIs in the inning. Heathcock had three hits in the game.

Piedmont 8-4, Pleasant Valley 1-2: Caleb Morrow and Easton Kirk both pitched complete games as the Bulldogs swept the series.

Morrow scattered six hits, gave up an unearned run and struck out five in the opener. In the nightcap, Kirk gave up two hits and struck out six. He also had two hits at the plate and reached base all three times he batted.

Bayley Blanchard had three hits in the opener and Kirk drove in two runs.

Oxford 7-3, Chelsea 1-2: The Yellow Jackets swept the doubleheader to sweep the series. Brody Syer, Nate Lloyd, Caden Higgins, Jacob Sears, Brennan McCullough and Austin Bolander drove in runs in the first game.

Oxford scored all three of its runs in the second game in the first inning. Nate Lloyd doubled home the first run and Chance Adams drove in the next two.

Westbrook Christian 6, Ohatchee 5: The Indians scored three runs in the seventh inning but came up a run short as the Warriors swept the home-and-home series. Westbrook scored four in the sixth to pull away from a tied game.

Donoho 6, Faith Christian 3: The young Falcons got multiple hits from eighth-grader Jase Alderman and Nick Tutor and Hall Billings gave up one earned run in a complete game. The Falcons play two eighth-graders in the outfield and two freshmen in the middle infield. Billings and Seth Ford both drove in a run.

Ragland 16, Shades Mt. Christian 6: Jeremy Burnham had three hits, including a three-run homer in a breakout five-run second inning, as the Purple Devils clinched the 1A Area 8 championship.

Stoney Merritt also had three hits for the Purple Devils. Jagger Phillips, Noah Hollingsworth, Seth Welborn, Grant Newton and Chase Cotton all had two. Brent Newton pitched the first 4 1-3 innings to get the win before turning it over to Hollingsworth to finish.

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