E.A. Sports Today

Warriors learn to close

Cherokee County takes first game of important Class 4A Area 12 series, finding a way to get past Jacksonville, Casey

Friday’s results
Cherokee County 6, Jacksonville 4
Faith Christian 9, JCA 8, 11 innings
Ohatchee 16, Donoho 1
Oxford 4, Piedmont 1
Oxford 9, Munford 2
Ragland 9, Shades Mtn. Christian 3
Ranburne 11-12, Woodland 7-4
Weaver 11, Saks 3
White Plains 7, Hokes Bluff 4

By Shannon Fagan
Cherokee County Herald

CENTRE – There’s a reason Cherokee County baseball coaches Fran and Coty Blanchard scheduled several bigger schools during the early part of the season.

It was for moments like Friday afternoon against Class 4A, Area 12 rival and fifth-ranked Jacksonville.

One thing the second-ranked Warriors have had trouble with of late is coming up with the big inning, but they broke through with a three-run home second against Jacksonville fire-baller Colin Casey. Then they added two more in the bottom of the third for a 6-4 victory in the first of a three-game series.

The series concludes Saturday afternoon with a scheduled 4:30 p.m. doubleheader at Henry Farm Park in Jacksonville.

“That’s huge for us,” Fran Blanchard said. “At Scottsboro, we go in with a two-run lead into the seventh and we end up losing the game. We’ve got the bases juiced a couple of times against Etowah late and we couldn’t close it out. I told our guys we’ve got to win these type of games for us to go anywhere in the state (playoffs). You can’t be that team that can’t close out because it gets to be mental.

“This (series) has been circled on our calendar since we’ve started. We’ve got to get through them to get to the next team if we want to win this area, and it’s a tough area. When the rankings came out, I think all four of our teams are in the top 20. It’s loaded. We’ve just got to take it one step at a time.”

Second baseman Colin Edwards led the Warriors (10-3) by going 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles. Catcher Colin Brewer added a pair of singles. Jaren and Jy Lockridge, Mason Rodgers and Chris Ray each contributed a hit.

Fifth-ranked Jacksonville (7-3) put the pressure on the Warriors early, scoring a pair of runs off starter Noah Ledbetter in the top of the first inning. Back-to-back singles by Casey and Colton Clark got the rally started with one out. Ledbetter retired Austin Lackey on a fly to left for the second out, but then designated hitter Dez Curry delivered a RBI-single to left. Curry advanced to second on an error, then Brant Deerman reached on an error at third to score Clark.

Ledbetter got out of the jam by getting Evan Shook to ground into a fielder’s choice.

The Warriors got a run back in the bottom half of the inning. After Jaren Lockridge singled to center with one out, Brewer brought him home on his single to center.

Jacksonville pushed another run across in the top of the second with two outs. Leadoff hitter Josh Glass singled to center and scored on Casey’s single to center, putting the Golden Eagles up 3-1. But that would be the last lead they would have.

Cherokee County loaded the bases on Casey with two outs, bringing Edwards to the plate. Edwards slapped a three-run double to right, giving the Warriors their first lead of the game, 4-3.

“It was toe-to-toe early,” Jacksonville coach David Deerman said. “They were scoring. We were scoring. It was a good ball game, but they had that one big inning there and we couldn’t catch back up. Give them credit. They swung the bats and they hit the ball.”

The Warriors added to their lead in the third when Brewer singled to center and Jy Lockridge belted a double to right center to score pinch runner Kaleb Gravett and DH Chris Ray singled to right to score Lockridge.

Jacksonville managed to score a run in the top of the sixth off Warrior reliever Gunnar Gable, but Gable retired the Golden Eagles’ top of the lineup in order in the seventh to earn the save.

“This builds our confidence up,” Edwards said. “We came out kind of flat, but as the game went along, we got better and better. We hit the ball really well today. I’m proud of the way we played. Hopefully that will continue into tomorrow.”

Brant Deerman led the Golden Eagles at the plate by going 2-for-2 with a double. Casey also had a pair of hits and suffered the loss.

Shannon Fagan is sports editor of the Cherokee County Herald. Cover photo by Shannon Fagan

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