E.A. Sports Today

Warriors bounce back

A little soul-searching propels No. 1 Cherokee County to a big win over White Plains; Jacksonville keeps pace at Hokes Bluff

Cherokee County’s Caleb Ransum is greeted by coach Fran Blanchard as he rounds third with his third-inning home run. (Photos by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

No one associated with the top-ranked Cherokee County baseball program was happy about what over the weekend and coach Fran Blanchard knew the sooner the Warriors could purge themselves of its impact the better.

So, the next time the Warriors were together, Blanchard sent the non-regulars away and the core group spent the next two hours talking baseball and situations and the road ahead and fixing the bad habits that crept into their game.

The Warriors hit the field for the first time since the lost weekend Tuesday and crushed White Plains 15-2 in an outcome that moved them closer to clinching the top seed in Class 4A Area 12.

“I thought we did a good job of coming off this weekend getting those two losses at home,” Blanchard said. “Taking it on the chin from Piedmont I didn’t know how we were going to come out and I thought we came out really good by putting pressure on them early at the plate. We didn’t do a good job of getting people on base (against Piedmont) and I thought tonight was a much better atmosphere.”

The White Plains players gathered in center field after the game for a similar conversation after being similarly competitively challenged in this game. The teams meet again Thursday in Centre.

“This just challenges us to play a better brand of baseball if we want to go where we want to go,” Wildcats coach Wes Henderson said. “That was my challenge to them after the game. I told them I’m not even worried about the loss, I’m not worried about anything; Thursday we need to show up and compete. Regardless of what the score is, I felt like today we did not do that.”

Cherokee County pounded 12 hits in the game – with all nine starters getting at least one — and two top-line pitchers held the Wildcats to five hits. Warriors third baseman Caleb Ransum had a two-run double in their four-run first and solo homer. Colin Edwards drove in four runs. Jaren and Jy Lockridge each had two hits and two RBIs. Cade Gossett and Mason Rodgers had two hits apiece.

“I just came up today and had my mindset to put the ball in play and try to help the team out as much as possible,” Ransum said. “I had a little struggle against Piedmont and I got in the cage Monday to try to fix some of the little things and came out today and improved a whole lot better.”

White Plains scored its two runs off Cherokee County starter Ethan Johnson in the second inning on Braxton Dopson’s leadoff homer and Michael McGuirk’s RBI single. Christian Stinson came on in the fourth and held the Wildcats on one hit, Jake Spivey’s sixth-inning single.

McGuirk was just inserted in the game in the top of the second after arriving right before the national anthem from attending the Mr. Basketball luncheon in Montgomery. He was a finalist for the Class 4A Player of the Year.

“I just came running in,” McGuirk said. “I knew it was going to be a close call because we didn’t leave until like 2 from the banquet and it takes 2½ hours to get back so we hurried back. And my uniforms were at home, so I hurried up and got here. I was like, ‘Coach, am I starting?’ and he was like ‘We’ll get you in the second inning.’ They were calling out starting lineups right when I came in.”

Cherokee County 15, White Plains 2
Cherokee County 403 035 –`15 12 2
White Plains 020 000 – 2 5 4

WP: Ethan Johnson. LP: Andrew Norred. 2B: Cade Gossett (CC), Josh Decker (CC), Jy Lockridge (CC), Caleb Ransum (CC). HR: Caleb Ransum (CC), Braxton Dopson (WP). Hits – Cherokee County: Colin Edwards, Jaren Lockridge, Jy Lockridge, Colin Brewer, Josh Decker, Caleb Ransum 2, Cade Gossett 2, Mason Rodgers 2, Zae Wright; White Plains: Jake Spivey 2, Braxton Dopson, Charlie Huey, Michael McGuirk. RBIs – Cherokee County: Colin Edwards 4, Jaren Lockridge, Jy Lockridge, Colin Brewer 2, Caleb Ransum 3, Mason Rodgers, Zae Wright; White Plains: Braxton Dopson, Michael McGuirk.

Jacksonville 4, Hokes Bluff 0: Colin Casey didn’t worry about it being a must-win, he just went out and did his thing.

Casey, who relishes having the ball in his hand in big games, threw a complete-game two-hitter with seven strikeouts in a game the Golden Eagles very much needed to have. The win puts them in position to win the series at home Thursday and set up a showdown with White Plains for the second spot in 4A Area 12.

Casey put all that pressure aside and gave up a first-inning single to Jace Stewart and a third-inning single to Carson Eubanks. The Eagles put runners in scoring position in each of the first three innings and in the seventh, but Casey always pitched his way out of it. He ended the game with a double play.

“That’s got to be in your mind,” Casey said, “but you’ve got to treat it like a regular game because if you go out there and press and say if we don’t win this we’re not going to make the playoffs, no one can play like that.

“We knew what we had to do to win and we went out there and executed Coach (David) Deerman’s plan. He told us from the get-go just be on board with what he’s doing and he’ll get us there. It took us a couple innings to get going at the plate, but eventually we did. The best thing we did today was not stress too much.”

Colton Clark drove in the only run Jacksonville would need with an RBI single in the third inning. The Golden Eagles pushed across two insurance runs in the sixth and scored their fourth run on Mak Curry’s RBI single in the seventh. Curry had two hits in the game.

Jacksonville 4, Hokes Bluff 0
Jacksonville 001 002 1 — 4 6 2
Hokes Bluff 000 000 0 — 0 2 0

WP: Colin Casey. LP: Dylan Teague. 2B: Colin Casey (J). Hits – Jacksonville: Colton Clark, Colin Casey, Austin Lackey, Mak Curry 2, Brandon Breeding; Hokes Bluff: Carson Eubanks, Jace Stewart. RBIs – Jacksonville: Brant Deerman, Colton Clark, Mak Curry.

White Plains’ Charlie Huey slides into second base, putting himself in position to score on Michael McGuirk’s single later in the inning. To see more B.J. Franklin photos from this game, to go www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

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