E.A. Sports Today

Long time coming

Ohatchee clinches first area baseball title in 31 years in grand style, with Jenkins’ walk-off slam in fifth inning

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OHATCHEE – Blake Jennings knows there’s a banner commemorating Ohatchee’s 1986 area baseball championship somewhere. The Indians coach saw it when he first got to the school six years ago.

Between the passage of time and refurbishing the gym, the banner’s current whereabouts are unknown, but every effort is being made to recover it because this year’s team has something it wants to put on it.

The Indians clinched their first area baseball title in 31 years Thursday when they overran Weaver 12-2 for the Class 3A Area 9 crown. Jaylon Jenkins pitched the whole game and ended it in dramatic fashion with a walk-off grand slam with none out in the bottom of the fifth.

“There was a banner someplace and we can’t find that banner; we looked everywhere today,” Jennings said, rolling in his hand the game ball he had all the players sign to commemorate the feat. “We looked in every crevice of that gym, called all the old teachers and nobody could find it. We’ll keep looking for it and update it, for sure.

“The goal we said right there in that dugout before the season started was to win the area championship. That’s the only goal we had made at that point. That was big and it’s big for our community. You put these guys back on the map. It’s huge for everybody around Ohatchee.”

Jennings, 28, wasn’t even born the last time the Indians won an area championship, in Class 2A. They certainly didn’t have their playoff game at home, instead “hosting” Northside-Tuscaloosa in Anniston. Last year they made the playoffs for the first time in 20 years.

Their big day was punctuated by a big day from Jenkins. On the mound, the right-hander allowed one hit through the first four innings and struck out 12 in the game. At the plate, hitting with one of the four new axe-handle bats that arrived just a few hours before the game, he went 3-for-4 with five RBIs, capped by the slam.

When Jenkins stepped in the box in the fifth, Jennings had a feeling the senior would hit a home run, but he thought it would go to right field, where the last four of his previous six have gone. This time, he put it over the left-centerfield wall.

“I knew I could do it,” Jenkins said. “I walked up to coach (and assistant principal Michael) Graham and told him if I hit this over and I get a walk-off grand slam I’m not coming to school tomorrow, and that’s what I did. I’m not doing it. I’ve got to get prom stuff ready for Saturday.”

Jenkins wasn’t the only Indian to excel at the plate. Kevin Williamson and Blake Buckelew, getting a rare chance to hit the entire game, both went 3-for-3. Larry Noah had two hits and Baylee Graham singled home the first two runs in the six-run fifth that put them over the top. Everybody in the lineup reached base safely at least once.

“This is the first time I’ve done anything like that with a team before,” Williamson said. “It was a goal we were fighting for. Playoffs next, who we got.”

That would be the Area 14 runner-up (North Sand Mountain, Pisgah, Plainview, Sylvania) in their first home playoff game in school history April 21-22.

On the cover: Somewhere in that pile is Jaylon Jenkins, whose walk-off grand slam gave Ohatchee a 12-2 victory that clinched its first area baseball title in 31 years.

Ohatchee 12, Weaver 2
Weaver 000 02 – 2 4 3
Ohatchee 112 26 – 12 15 1

WP: Jaylon Jenkins. LP: Austin Bryant. 2B: Dalton Hamby (W). HR: Jaylon Jenkins (O). Hits – Weaver: Dalton Hamby, Austin Bryant, Tyler Perez, Nick Souder; Ohatchee: Taylor Eubanks, Jaylon Jenkins 3, Kevin Williamson 3, Jesse Sellers, Austin Tucker, Larry Noah 2, Blake Buckelew 3, Baylee Graham. RBIs – Weaver: Dalton Hamby 2; Ohatchee: Jaylon Jenkins 5, Kevin Williamson, Austin Tucker, Larry Noah, Baylee Graham 2.

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