E.A. Sports Today

Back in the game

Monday baseball: Cubs’ Welch back at it with more respect for the game; Oxford follows its no-hitter with a big game at the plate; more games in Choccolocco Park Experience, Gulf Coast Classic

Mitch Welch trots home with Alexandria’s tying run in an eventual 3-1 victory over Saks. Welch is back in the game after undergoing brain surgery late last season. (Photos by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – When Alexandria catcher Mitch Welch came to the occasion of his final baseball game last season he literally thought it would be the last time he would play the game he loves.

It’s not that he lacked confidence in the impending brain surgery that was scheduled a few weeks later; he just expected the precautions that would follow would keep him on the sidelines.

Well, the surgery couldn’t have gone better and a few months later he back in his catching gear keeping former Valley Cubs pitcher Cody Dodd sharp for college.

Now he is back in the game, bringing an experienced hand even as a freshman to an otherwise young Valley Cubs team.

Welch had a hit in each game Monday as the Cubs split with Hokes Bluff and county rival Saks in the Choccolocco Park Spring Break Experience.

He was behind the plate against Hokes Bluff and went 1-for-3 with a fourth-inning single in a 10-0 loss. He was the DH against Saks, going 1-for-3 again, scoring the Valley Cubs’ first run after a second-inning single and sacrificing two runners into scoring position in the sixth who eventually scored in a 3-1 win.

“He’s worked hard to get back to catching for us and just being steady behind the plate for us,” Alexandria coach Andy Shaw said. “That’s all we asked him to do and he’s done that. He’s a go-getter and done a good job for us and we hope he continues to get better.”

The game of life threw Welch a curve when doctors discovered a sausage-shaped tumor on the left side of his brain. He played on the varsity baseball team last spring, catching in some of the biggest games of the year, and then underwent surgery June 16.

Three months later, defying the odds, he was back doing baseball things. He said he’s been told the effected area is clear.

“I didn’t think I’d be able to be catching any more,” he said after Monday’s games. “I respect the game a lot more than I ever did last year. You have to love the game to play it. I love the game and always wanted to play and I didn’t quit.”

He’s been steadily getting back to feeling comfortable and it’s been just this week he has felt close to his old self. Early in the season he was having trouble with his right eye, a problem since corrected with a single contact lens, but since there he hasn’t experienced anything unusual,

As long as Welch takes his medication and stays hydrated he should remain good to go. Shaw said the coaches are constantly monitoring Welch’s condition and at the slightest hint of something being off they’re acting.

“His safety is most important,” Shaw said. “If he gets to feeling any different we’re getting him out.”

Alexandria 3, Saks 1: Justin Shaw pitched a complete-game three-hitter as the Valley Cubs bounced back from the earlier loss to Hokes Bluff. The Cubs broke a 1-1 tie with two in the sixth when two runners Welch moved over scored on an infield error. Jaylen Childs had two of the Wildcats’ three hits and drove in their first-inning run with a double.

Alexandria 3, Saks 1
Alexandria 010 002 0 — 3 2 0
Saks 100 000 0 — 1 3 2

WP: Justin Shaw. LP: Brody Johnson. 2B: Jaylen Childs (S). Hits – Alexandria: Mitch Welch, Jarrod Ponder; Saks: Jaylen Childs 2, Eley Downes. RBIs – Alexandria: Noah Primm; Saks: Jaylen Childs.

Justin Shaw gave Alexandria a complete game in its 3-1 victory over Saks. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Hokes Bluff 10, Alexandria 0: The Eagles’ first experience on the Signature Field at Choccolocco Park could not have gone any better. They pounded 16 hits and two pitchers combined on a four-hit shutout in their only game of the day in the Spring Break Experience.

Sophomore left-hander Dylan Teague started, came out when he reached his pitch limit and got the win; Weston Ball finished. Wyatt Watson was out front in the hit parade, going 4-for-5. Teague drove in the first two runs of the game with a bases-loaded single in a four-run second inning.

“I was a little bit worried,” Eagles coach Mike Robertson said, “but nearly all of my kids have played some kind of travel ball so they’ve experienced a big-field atmosphere, so I really didn’t even mention it to them. I think they were excited to play on it. It’s beautiful.”

The Eagles (12-3) will play one game Tuesday, at 4 p.m. against host Oxford. Jace Stewart is expected to start, but they also expected to throw freshmen Ashton Gulledge and Caleb McGinnis in a move designed to build depth.

Hokes Bluff 10, Alexandria 0
Hokes Bluff 040 032 1 — 10 16 2
Alexandria 000 000 0 — 0 4 2

WP: Dylan Teague. LP: Austin Goode. 3B: Fisher Simmons (H). Hits – Hokes Bluff: Carson Eubanks 2, Weston Ball, Jace Stewart, Wyatt Watson 4, Coby Addison 2, Houston Edwards, Fisher Simmons 2, Peyton Moore, Dylan Teague 2; Aleandria: Noah Primm, Nate McCallum, Mitch Welch, Austin Good. RBIs – Hokes Bluff: Weston Bell, Wyatt Watson, Fisher Simmons 2, Dylan Teague 2.

Caden Higgins (4) and Brody Syer (2) greet Judd Moore at the plate after Moore comes across with another of Oxford’s 28 runs against Saks. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Oxford 28, Saks 0: The Yellow Jackets followed their no-hitter with a big offensive game. They sent 15 batters to the plate in a 10-run first inning and 17 to the plate in a 12-run second.

Every spot in the lineup had at least one hit. Caden Higgins and Jacob Sears both had two-run doubles in the first inning.

“Eighth-grade pitchers threw strikes, 26 out of 28 guys on the roster got to play,” Oxford coach Wes Brooks said. “Those guys work just as hard in practice as the guys who normally are in the lineup. It is good for those guys to get to put on that black-and-gold jersey and be able to get out there and get an appearance or an at-bat.”

Saks’ tough day at the plate continued in its third game of the day. The Wildcats (10-8) had three hits in the game.

“We had a rough day,” Saks coach Wes Ginn. “We got held up with the bat, but we saw some pretty good pitching. Hopefully that will better us for (area opponents) Handley and Munford going forward.”

Austin 11, Saks 0: Cole Mattox pitched a no-hitter and faced one batter over the minimum in a six-inning win. The only runner he allowed was a one-out walk to Caleb Ogle in the second inning.


McAdory 15, Pleasant Valley 4: Nathan East’s two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning put McAdory over the top. East (2-for-3) and Chase Lee (3-for-4) each drove in three runs for the Yellow Jackets. Triston Salster hit a two-run homer for Pleasant Valley in the sixth inning. The Raiders also lost a game to Normal (Ill.) in the tournament.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login