E.A. Sports Today

Piedmont sweeps into 3A baseball finals

Bulldogs use seventh-inning fireworks to win Game 1, then pull off big gamble in Game 2 to sweep Colbert Heights

Easton Kirk reacts to Taylor Hayes’ leadoff homer in the seventh inning of the opener and moments later he hit one of his own.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

TUSCUMBIA — Matt Deerman is probably the last person you’d expect to drop a wager on anything, but he rolled the dice on the biggest gamble in baseball Wednesday night and it paid off big time for the Piedmont Bulldogs.

Deerman played the suicide squeeze on a two-strike count with Mason Mohon in the sixth inning. Mohon got it down, plating a streaking Taylor Morrow from third with the go-ahead run in a 2-1 win over Colbert Heights that completed a sweep of their best-of-3 Class 3A semifinal baseball series.

The Bulldogs (27-12), who won Game One 4-2 with back-to-back homers in the seventh by Taylor Hayes and Easton Kirk, will play the winner of Thursday’s Gordo-American Christian Game 3 for the title starting Monday at Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery.

“We took a chance and it worked out,” Deerman said. “The kids made me look good. Mohon made me look good right there. I’m not necessarily what you would call a gambler, but sometimes you have gut feelings and you just go with your instincts. … But I don’t know that I’ve ever made a call like that.”

“That was one of the best calls I’ve ever been a part of,” Morrow said. “That’s THE best play I’ve ever been a part of.”

Actually, Deerman considered calling it a pitch earlier but couldn’t get it to Mohon in time. Morrow led off the inning with a double and was sacrificed to third by Derrick Baer. Mohon had struck out in his previous two plate appearances against Colbert Heights ace Dakota McCreless and would’ve fanned a third time had he not put the ball in play with Morrow breaking down the line.

But Deerman, a get-them-on-get-them-over-get-them-in style of coach, was confident Morrow would have slid in safely with the run anyway. Morrow was, too.

Mohon, meanwhile, just wanted to get it down.

“I haven’t bunted good all year; I haven’t laid one down,” he said. “I don’t know how I got that one down. I just saw the curveball and had to get it when it broke.”

Deerman’s instinct told him starting Logan Pruitt in Game 2 was less of a gamble because of Pruitt’s curveball. And it was more of a sure thing to come with hard-throwing Kirk at the end – as long as the senior right-hander stayed under his pitch allowance so he could pitch Game 3 if necessary.

It wasn’t. And Kirk struck out four of the five batters he faced with six pitches to spare.

Not to be overlooked was right-fielder Bailey Graves gunning a runner at the plate to keep it a 1-1 game in the fifth.

Most of the veterans on this team have played in the state championship game for football (winning the last two), basketball and now baseball, so playing on the big stage shouldn’t be an emotional shock for the Bulldogs.
“To be honest at the start of the year I didn’t know if we would be that good,” Kirk said. “But we’ve had some young kids step up (and) Coach Deerman has done one heck of a job coaching us this year. It’s amazing getting to Montgomery in his first year as head coach and our senior year. It’s crazy.”
HAYES, HOMERS WIN OPENER: The short right-field fence at Wildcat Mountain had been calling Easton Kirk’s name all game. He finally answered it at the most dramatic time of the game.

Kirk followed Taylor Hayes’ leadoff homer in the top of the seventh with a blast of his own to help the Bulldogs win the first game 4-2.

Colbert Heights tied the game 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth. Hayes, who had been brilliant again on the mound, was just looking to get on base for Kirk when he came up in the seventh, but he led off with a homer over the right field fence. Kirk followed with his blast about 25 feet to the left of Hayes.

Hayes wasn’t confident his got over the fence so he sprinted to second base. The bat flip told you Kirk knew his was gone.

“I was looking at it all game long and I finally got my pitch right there at the last at-bat to hit it,” Kirk said. “It’s freaking awesome (the back-to-back blasts). We’ve been playing together since we were 3 or 4 years old in every single sport and in the state semifinals to go back-to-back to win the game there’s not a better moment than that in high school sports.”

Colbert Heights officials claim the right field fence was 330 feet from home plate. Hayes estimated it at 290, a porch about as comparable, they thought, to Ohatchee’s left field fence.

On the mound, Hayes struck out 13 — two an inning until the seventh — and held the Wildcats to two hits. If you’re counting, that’s 50 strikeouts in his five playoff starts and he’s almost assuredly going to pitch the championship opener. He got the final out of Wednesday’s opener with his 120th pitch of the game.

“It’s good to get the first one out of the way and get a win, and also do it in like an emotional style where we have a lot of momentum going into Game 2 and they’re kind of down,” Hayes said. “Hopefully we can go get this second one done and go home and get ready for state Monday.”


Sweet Water 10-3, Ragland 2-2 (Sweet Water, 30-7, wins series 2-0)
Decatur Heritage 11-13, Athens Bible 10-10 (Decatur Heritage, 22-11, wins series 2-0)

American Christian (30-8) 3-8, Gordon (31-7) 4-3 (Game 3, Thursday, 4:30 p.m. at Gordo)
Piedmont 4-2, Colbert Heights 2-1 (Piedmont, 27-12, wins series 2-0)

Game One
Piedmont 4, Colbert Heights 2
Piedmont 100 100 2 — 4 4 2
Colbert Heights 100 001 0 — 2 2 5

WP: Taylor Hayes. LP: Brendan Borden. 2B: Dakota McCreless (CH). HR: Taylor Hayes (P), Easton Kirk (P). Hits — Piedmont: Taylor Hayes, Easton Kirk, Derrick Baer, Mason Mohon; Colbert Heights: John Pierce, Dakota McCreless. RBIs — Piedmont: Taylor Hayes, Easton Kirk, Derrick Baer, T.J. Fairs; Colbert Heights: Dakota McCreless, Tyler Taylor.

Game Two
Piedmont 2, Colbert Heights 1
Colbert Heights 010 000 1 — 1 2 2
Piedmont 010 001 x — 2 6 5

WP: Logan Pruitt. LP: Dakota McCreless. 2B: Derrick Baer (P), Taylor Morrow (P). Hits — Colbert Heights: Korey Saint, Logan McDougal; Piedmont: Taylor Hayes 3, Taylor Morrow, Derrick Baer, Bailey Graves. RBIs — Colbert Heights: Chason Scott; Piedmont: Mason Mohon.

Here are Taylor Hayes’ strikeouts in his playoff starts
Colbert Heights (W) – 13
Lauderdale County (L) – 12
Lauderdale County (W) – 8
West Morgan (L) – 5
New Hope (W) – 12

Taylor Hayes (R) embraces his catcher, Easton Kirk, after Piedmont’s Game One victory over Colbert Heights.

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