E.A. Sports Today

Up in the OZone

Alabama champion Fairhope puts together late rally to dump South Carolina and remain only unbeaten team left in DYB O-Zone Series

Thursday’s Games
Alabama vs. Arkansas, 10:30 a.m. (Field 2)
South Carolina vs. Tennessee, 10 a.m. (Field 3)
Championship Game, 5 p.m. (Field 2)
(If necessary, Friday, 10 a.m., Field 2)

Thursday’s Game
Championship Game: South Carolina vs. Florida, 10 a.m.
(if necessary, 1 p.m.)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – The irony was not lost on Alabama O-Zone manager Andy Malone.

His team’s big first inning Monday against Virginia was started by a catcher’s interference call and its sixth-inning winning rally Wednesday against South Carolina started the same way. The batter at the plate was the same both times: Brooks Brasfield.

The defensive break helped Fairhope loaded the bases with none out and it proceeded to score a pair of run to beat South Carolina 3-2 to remain the only unbeaten team in the Dixie Youth O-Zone World Series at Choccolocco Park.

Fairhope returns to the park Thursday at 10:30 a.m. against Arkansas. Winning that game sends it into the 5 p.m. Championship Game. A loss and there will be three teams with one loss.

“Last one unbeaten, that’s where you want to be,” Malone said. “We’re looking forward to going into tomorrow and we’ve got to win two more ballgames.”

Fairhope went into the sixth down 2-1. Brasfield got the rally started when his bat got into South Carolina catcher Austin Copeland. Josh Gunther walked and Steele Sims singled to load the bases. Riley Malone singled to break the tie and keep the bases loaded and Gatlin Pitts gave it the lead with a one-out single, his second hit of the game.

John Malone pitched a complete game for the Alabama state champions. He bounced back from a baseline collision in the first inning to give up five hits, a walk and strike out four. The runs he allowed came on a two-run opposite field homer by Wil Stewart in the fourth inning.

“We like letting our guys pitch to a game and get their rest and pitch their next game,” the manager said. “He pitched on Saturday, he was on full rest today, so he pitched his game. We try to let the guys go longer; we’re not a 2-2-2, anything like that, we’ve got guys who can pitch so we let them pitch their game.”

“He comes out if his arm’s hurting or he’s walking people or getting hit,” pitcher Malone said.

He also pulled off the hidden ball trick. With Justin Copeland on second after a double, Malone spun for a pickoff attempt. Second baseman Gunther dove and the other infielders looked panicky into the outfield for a ball that really wasn’t there. Copeland took off for third and Malone ran him down between the bases.

“We’ve got a play that we call out,” manager Malone said. “It works about half the time. We probably ran it eight times the last couple years and it’s probably worked four of them. Why use it unless you need it? We needed it.”

Gunther gave Fairhope a 1-0 lead with a two-out homer in the second inning.

On the cover: Fairhope pitcher John Malone celebrates a complete-game victory over South Carolina that left his team the only one unbeaten in the Dixie Youth O-Zone World Series.

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