E.A. Sports Today

Sweet smell of success

Cherokee County completes home-and-home sweep of Jacksonville behind a 1-hitter from a guy named “Stink”

Cherokee County’s Zae Wright gets underneath the tag of Jacksonville pitcher Colton Clark for the Warriors’ sixth run of the first inning. On the cover, Christian Stinson delivers. (Photos by B.J. Franklin)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – They call the guy Cherokee County sent to the mound at Henry Farm Park “Stink.”

Christian Stinson didn’t stink Monday night, but he sure had some “stinky stuff.”

The senior right-hander with the malodorous nickname was at the top of his game. He spun a five-inning one-hitter, struck out five and got out of the only trouble he faced as the second-ranked Warriors blanked Jacksonville 10-0 to sweep their Class 4A Area 12 opening series.

“I knew right from the get-go, while I was warming up, it was going to be a great night,” an uncommitted senior who wants to play college baseball. “I just knew I wasn’t going to give up any runs tonight. I just believed in myself and trusted what I had and threw my best stuff.”

Warriors assistant coach Coty Blanchard spent the whole day trying to decide whether to throw Stinson or “Easy” Ethan Johnson in the pivotal game and ultimately made his choice on “just a feeling.”

Stinson threw 74 pitches. The only hit he allowed was a one-out infield single by Brant Deerman in the second inning. The fifth-ranked Golden Eagles (7-4) loaded the bases right after that on a ball Stinson failed to field cleanly, but the pitcher fanned the next two hitters to squash the threat.

“Stink threw some stinky stuff at them,” Warriors head coach Fran Blanchard said. “To keep that hitting club off balance like he did … he was just excellent.”

“The guy has got a dad-gum heart of a dad-gum lion,” Coty Blanchard said. “He just filled it up tonight.”

Making the start a lot less stressful was the fact Stinson had a 7-0 lead before he ever took the mound.

The Warriors (11-3) sent 11 batters to the plate in the first inning against Jacksonville starter Colton Clark. Their first six batters — and seven of their first eight – all reached safely and scored. Jy Lockridge, Stinson and Johnson all had RBIs, while other runs scored on an error, a dropped third strike, a wild pitch and a passed ball. Clark threw 42 pitches in the inning.

The Warriors added three more in the fifth on RBI singles by Jaren Lockridge and Caleb Ransum and Jy Lockridge’s infield out. Colin Edwards and Caleb Ransum both had two hits and reached base all four times they batted. Jaren Lockridge and Johnson both had two hits.

With No. 6 Hokes Bluff beating White Plains in the second game of their series and losing the tiebreaker rubber game, Cherokee County has the early upper hand in one of the most competitive area races in the state.

“Four of the top 12 teams in the state are in our area,” Fran Blanchard said. “We knew when we had to face (Jacksonville’s Colin) Casey that first night we had to bring our A game and that put us where we kind of needed to be coming into this game because he’d have been eligible to throw tomorrow (if a tiebreaker were necessary).

“You can’t not take every one of these games like it’s a must-win series to be the kind of club we want to be. You’ve got to win these kinds of games against these good people and that just propels our guys.”

Cherokee County 700 03 — 10 10 3
Jacksonville 000 00 — 0 1 2

WP: Christian Stinson. LP: Colton Clark. 2B: Ethan Johnson (CC).

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