E.A. Sports Today

Wildcats win area opener

McGuirk’s first homer, Cronan’s complete game highlight White Plains’ victory over sixth-ranked Hokes Bluff

White Plains first baseman Jake Spivey stretches to grab the relay that completed double play Hokes Bluff’s Coby Addison hit into in the fifth inning. (Photo by Riley Huey Photography)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

If Michael Scott McGuirk is going to be a home-run hitter in his senior-year return to baseball he’s going to have to work on his home-run trot.

McGuirk, a sure-fire all-state basketball player who sat out baseball last spring, hit the first home run of his life in the third inning of White Plains’ 7-4 area opening win over No. 6 Hokes Bluff Friday.

He got so excited about the blast, which went about 340 feet over the left centerfield fence, he missed first base and had to come back before completing his run around the bases.

“I was expecting it to be a double,” McGuirk said. “I’ve never hit a home run so I really didn’t know what it feels like. I was just running as hard as I could and then coach told me it was out. It kind of messed me up because coach told me it was a home run right before I got (to first) and I was on the turn.

“But it was awesome. It’s one of the best feelings. It’s like scoring 30 (points in a basketball game).”

And that’s a feeling he knows very well.

McGuirk nearly hit a second homer in his next at-bat two innings later. With Wildcats basketball coach Chris Randall in a phone conversation with the game scorer in the press box, the right fielder hit a shot that left the park just a few feet foul of the left-field pole.

“I had it ready on that next one,” he said of the trot. “I did the bat-flip and everything. But it was foul.”

McGuirk played JV baseball for the Wildcats as a 10th grader, but gave it up last year to run track. He decided to return to the diamond after hurting his back in track and didn’t want to risk a repeat this spring that could potentially impact his basketball future. He plans to sign with Lee University next month.

Ironically, he hit his first-ever homer with the bat of Charlie Huey, who hit the first two homers of his career during a big seventh-inning rally that beat Ohatchee right before the County Tournament.

“I never saw it coming,” winning pitcher Andrew Cronan said of McGuirk’s homer.

The Wildcats (7-3) already had a nice lead when McGuirk went yard. They rallied from an early 2-0 deficit answering Houston Edwards’ two-run homer in the second with six runs in the home half of the inning. Andrew Cronan had a two-run single in it to give them the lead.

Peyton Morgan, Jake Spivey, Andrew Norred and Brett Beaver also drove in runs that inning.

The win was important because it gave White Plains (7-3) a leg up in a series in an area where the other three teams — Hokes Bluff (6), Jacksonville (5) and Cherokee County (2) — are all in the first statewide poll. Cherokee County beat Jacksonville ace Colin Casey 6-4 in another 4A Area 12 series opener Friday.

“Anybody in our area can win it,” Wildcats coach Wes Henderson said. “Anybody can finish fourth, anybody can win it, so from a mental standpoint it’s huge to come out and get the first win. It’s going to be a dogfight tomorrow. I don’t know what’s going on with Cherokee County and Jacksonville, but I know that’s a great series.”

Cronan pitched a complete game for the win. He gave up 12 hits and struck out seven, but between the second and seventh innings where the Eagles (8-2) scored he allowed only one runner past first base. Truth told, he was one pitch from taking a shutout into the seventh.

“I knew I had to give my team a chance,” Cronan said. “If I kept them to a couple runs I knew we could get some offense going. Most of the time I pitch I don’t get to where I’m comfortable until later in the game, like third or fourth inning. Once I got in my groove I felt confident.”

Hokes Bluff 020 000 2 — 4 12 3
White Plains 061 000 x — 7 7 3

WP: Andrew Cronan. LP: Coby Addison. 2B: Dylan Teague (HB), Andrew Norred (WP), Charlie Huey (WP). HR: Houston Edwards (HB), Michael Scott McGuirk (WP).

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