E.A. Sports Today

Piedmont sweeps Ohatchee

Young homers after four walks, Bulldogs spoil Ohatchee’s first trip to playoffs in 20 years

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

PIEDMONT — Payton Young had been waiting all night to get a pitch to hit. Not just a pitch he could hit, any pitch to hit.

The Piedmont senior slugger was being pitched around throughout the Bulldogs’ Class 3A playoff doubleheader with Ohatchee Friday night. But he finally got a pitch he could swing at in the sixth inning of the nightcap and he sent it far into the dark night.

Young’s two-run homer, off second Ohatchee pitcher Jaylon Jenkins, high over the “P” on the left-centerfield fence, highlighted a 12-2 victory that completed the Bulldogs’ sweep. They won the first game 5-3 and will now host Westbrook Christian in the second round of the Class 3A playoffs.

Before the homer, Young was walked four times in his six previous plate appearances – once intentionally.

“It’s kind of been the story of the season,” Young said. “You’ve gotta take your walks, first of all, but when you do get a pitch – say you may get two a game – you just can’t miss them; you’ve got to take advantage of the opportunity. That’s what I was trying to do, take advantage of the opportunity.

“It gets frustrating, but I see it as a respect thing, but it does for sure get frustrating when they don’t pitch to you. I’m always looking for a pitch to hit. You just have to go up there with a good approach and get in good counts.”

The home run was only his second of the season, but the Jacksonville State signee is a threat to hit it a long way every time he steps to the plate. Opposing pitchers know it, too; Young has a team-high 25 walks in 94 plate appearances.

“They’re not going to give him much,” Bulldogs coach James Blanchard said. “I wouldn’t either; you’ve seen what the result is when you do.”

And it’s only likely to happen more the deeper Piedmont goes into the playoffs.

But what are opposing pitchers supposed to do? The heart of the Bulldogs’ order – Easton Kirk, Young and Derrick Baer – all had three hits in the nightcap, going 9-for-12 with eight RBIs, and was a combined 11-for-19 with 10 RBIs in the doubleheader.

In the first game, the Bulldogs rallied for four runs in the home fifth after Ohatchee had gone ahead with two in the top of the inning.

The first six batters of the inning reached for Piedmont. It started with an infield single-error combo. A walk and a wild pitch put runners at second and third.

Kirk singled home the first run and before it was over Baer and Caleb Morrow drove home runs and another scored on a wild pitch.

Ohatchee, in the playoffs for the first time in 20 years, took a 3-1 lead in the top of the inning on Taylor Eubanks’ bases-loaded two-run single under the glove of diving third baseman Baer.

Taylor Hayes pitched a complete game for the win. Hayes, named a North-South all-star earlier in the week, didn’t start strong. He opened with two walks and a hit batsman, prompting a mound visit from Blanchard.

After the visit, Hayes got a three-pitch strikeout, an infield grounder he took to first that scored a run and a soft liner back to the mound. The two runs Ohatchee scored in the fifth were unearned. He struck out nine.

“He just told me to settle down,” Hayes said. “I probably should’ve thrown some extra pitches in the bullpen to get warm, because it usually takes me a while, but he just said he believes in me and all my fielders say they’ve got my back just throw strikes and that’s what I try to do.

“I probably did need to be calmed down a little bit; I probably got in too big of a rush. When I felt my rhythm it was good and I was just settled in from there. I know we’re going to hit the ball. I can’t walk people. That’s what coach Deerman told me, you don’t walk people or make errors then they’re not going to score runs.”

On the cover: Payton Young (R) shares a moment with Piedmont coach James Blanchard after the Bulldogs swept Ohatchee.

Game One
Ohatchee 100 020 0 — 3 5 1
Piedmont 001 040 x — 5 6 2
WP: Taylor Hayes. LP: Blayde Crump.

Game Two
Piedmont 202 003 5 — 12 13 4
Ohatchee 100 010 0 — 2 3 2
WP: Caleb Morrow. LP: Michael Cherry. HR: Payton Young.

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