E.A. Sports Today

Swept aside

Gordo answers Piedmont’s game-tying rally with 5 in the fifth to complete sweep of Class 3A title series

Gordo players rush the field after beating Piedmont 9-2 Tuesday to clinch the Class 3A baseball crown.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

MONTGOMERY – Matt Deerman was understandably proud that his Piedmont baseball team had reached the state championship round in his first year as head coach. But at the same time he wondered what might have been if the Bulldogs had been a little sharper.

On the biggest stage of the year the Bulldogs were just a little off their game. Of course, South champion Gordo might have had a little bit to do with it.

The Greenwave answered Piedmont’s game-tying rally with five runs in the home fifth and carried it to a 9-2 victory Tuesday that swept their Class 3A state baseball title.

“Gordo had a great team,” Deerman said. “As far 3A-4A baseball, that’s the best team we played all year long. At the same time I’d like to have seen what would’ve happened if we had our best game. We made some uncharacteristic mistakes that cost us and led to some big innings.

“Coming into it I thought for sure it was going to be a three-game series and that’s why we did the pitching rotation the way did and it just didn’t fall in our favor. They came up with huge two-out hits and we didn’t. They made great plays and we didn’t. We made some mistakes that really hurt us.”

The biggest inning was the fifth. The Bulldogs (27-14) had just tied the game in the top of the inning with their first runs of the series on Michael Rogers’ RBI triple (one of the few plays Gordo centerfielder Cabel Mullenix didn’t make) and a dropped pop up in the infield and excitement was high.

If the Bulldogs could’ve gotten a shutdown inning there they may have carried that momentum into forcing a winner-take-all third game.

“It felt good to come back and tie the game because that got the momentum coming back to us,” senior slugger Easton Kirk said. “I felt we were one hit away from getting the lead and busting it open a little bit.”

Instead, the Greenwave (34-7) batted around. Collin Herring had the go-ahead single, Davis Vails hit a three-run triple that split the center and right fielders and kept rolling in the deep Riverwalk Stadium outfield. And then winning pitcher Nick Pounders delivered a sacrifice fly. They added two more in the sixth.

Gordo pitcher Thomas Langford was voted the series most valuable player but a case could have been made for Herring. He went 4-for-4 with three runs and three RBIs in the clinching game. He was 7-for-9 with six RBIs in the series, 7-for-8 after being read the riot act for striking out with a runner on second in the first inning of Monday’s opener.

Herring batted .465 in the playoffs, 13-of-22 in his season-ending six-game playoff hitting streak.

“They just hit the ball,” Bulldogs starter Taylor Hayes said. “I didn’t have my best stuff that I’ve been having; I don’t feel like I was throwing as hard as I’ve been throwing. My slider was working all right, but I just wasn’t able to blow that fastball by them so they weren’t really too worried about my slider.”

The loss brought the curtain down on life chapters of two of Piedmont’s two biggest stars, Hayes and Kirk. They’ve been the leaders on Piedmont teams that played for state championships in all three major sports during their careers and they had been playing baseball together in some form since they were 3 years old.

Kirk finished the season batting .467 with 13 homers and 42 RBIs — all team highs. Hayes right behind, batting .461 with 59 hits and 41 RBIs. On the mound, Hayes was 10-5 with a 1.76 ERA, 1.065 WHIP and 132 strikeouts in 87 1/3 innings; Kirk was 6-2 with an 2.33 ERA.

“It’s been a great time in my life,” Hayes said. “I would honor … all the coaches who gave us the chance to play and believed in us. We got here and were able to play for a state championship in every sport and I think that’s something that will key with us for a long time.

“We’d have liked to have finished it. We were seeded like fifth or sixth in our own county so nobody thought we were going to be here, so it was good, especially (Deerman’s) first year to get him here and to get the rest of our seniors here and the group we had that nobody really believed in to be able to get here and set the bar high.”

“I didn’t go to Piedmont my whole life, but moving here was probably the best decision I’ve made,” Kirk said. “This was probably no doubt the best year of baseball I’ve ever had. It’s tough that this came to an end like this, but nobody thought we would be here. It feels good to prove all the people wrong who didn’t think we would be here.”

Easton Kirk hugs pitcher Taylor Hayes (1) as their Piedmont playing careers closed in Tuesday’s Class 3A title game. They have been playing baseball together on some level since they were 3.

3A Game 2 Box

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