E.A. Sports Today

Piedmont falls in Game 3

Coach left to second-guess pitching decision after Lauderdale County extends lead in seventh

Lauderdale County’s Blade Wisdom (22) crosses the plate with the second run of Holden Stanfield’s game-breaking double in the seventh inning. (Photos by B.J. Franklin)

By East Alabama Sports Today

PIEDMONT — This one might stay with Piedmont coach Matt Deerman for a little while.

The Bulldogs lost to Lauderdale County 7-3 in the decisive Game 3 of their Class 3A quarterfinals playoff series Saturday.

The game of baseball lends itself to second-guessing, especially when it comes to making a late-game pitching change in a tight situation, and the Piedmont coach left the ballpark wondering what might have been if he just pulled the trigger.

The Bulldogs had gotten back to within 4-3 in the sixth inning and had the top of their lineup coming up in the seventh.

Bailey Graves had pitched well with the exception of one early inning and Deerman was contemplating lifting the right-hander for Taylor Morrow when the Tigers got a man on in the top of the seventh and the top of the order coming to the plate.

Deerman had Game One starter Logan Pruitt warming up to replace Morrow at third had he summoned the West Georgia signee to the mound, but never made the move.

Instead, he left Graves in the game and two batters later Holden Stanfield laced a two-run double into the right field corner making any Piedmont bid for a comeback in the bottom of the inning a tough task even with the top of the order due.

“As a coach I’m going to be kicking myself in the butt … probably until this time next year,” Deerman said. “You have to make decisions sometimes to stick with a guy.

“Probably should’ve made a change. They’d been through the lineup three times, that was the fourth time around. That’s a coaching decision I’ll have to live with. You go with your gut; sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.”

Graves said Stanfield hit “a good pitch” on the game-breaking double.

Lauderdale County struck for four against Graves in the second inning with the help of a close call at third that didn’t go Piedmont’s way and would’ve kept the game scoreless if it had.

Slayden Swanson was tagging up from second to advance on Levi Greer’s sacrifice fly that scored Alex Newton from third. Morrow said he had gotten the tag on Swanson’s foot well before the bag. Deerman said the base umpire told him the throw had beaten the runner but the tag was made after Swanson had hit the base.

So, the Tigers got a lazy run on the sacrifice fly that would’ve been erased by the out at third, added another run on an RBI single and got two more on Slade Wisdom’s two-run single.

The Bulldogs (23-12) got back to 4-3 in the sixth on Brant Deerman’s two-run single. They had the tying run in scoring position with one out after the hit and at third with two but couldn’t get it home as Stanfield made a nice catch in right field for the final out.

Stanfield also had an assist on an inning-ending flyout-double play that took the Bulldogs out of a threat in the fifth.

“He hurt us a couple times in the series,” Deerman said.

Lauderdale County (20-14-1) will now play Locust Fork (21-15) in the semifinals next week.

Spring Garden into semifinals

SPRING GARDEN — It didn’t take the late-inning drama that Spring Garden needed Friday night against third-ranked Athens Bible. The Panthers just pounded the ball and let senior pitcher Austin Finch handle the rest.

Every batter in Spring Garden’s lineup had at least one hit and the Panthers scored seven runs in the third inning to propel them to a 12-2 Game 3 victory that secured their first-ever trip to the Class 1A state baseball semifinals.

They will take on South Lamar, an 11-1 winner over Hackleburg in their own Game 3 Saturday.

“I told our guys in January the bracket is set up in our favor. We’ve got a team that can make a run (at a state championship) and they’ve believed,” Spring Garden coach Barrett Ragsdale said. “Our goal from the beginning of the year has been the state championship, to find a way to get there. We’ve got to block everything else out. We’ve got someone standing in our way in the semifinals, but we’ve just got to find a way to get it done.”

The Panthers (24-8) took the lead in the bottom of the first inning when senior leadoff batter Riley Austin walked and later scored on a passed ball.

Athens Bible (21-12) tied the game in the top of the second. The Trojans loaded the bases against Finch with one out, but could only squeeze across a run when Kenneth Adams scored on a passed ball.

Finch would get all the run support he needed in the bottom of the third when the Panthers sent 11 batters to the plate. Finch helped himself by delivering a two-run single to center, but the big blow of the inning was designated hitter Michael Floyd’s three-run triple.

“At the beginning of the season, I wasn’t hitting that good, but I’ve turned it on since the beginning of the playoffs,” Floyd said. “Coach told us if we got to a Game 3, we were going to win because they didn’t have any pitching left.”

Later in the game Finch had a two-run double, Weston Kirk had an RBI double and Austin Slayton hit a walk-off double that scored Luke Ivey.

Finch also earned the win on the mound. He surrendered just two runs on three hits with one walk and a pair of strikeouts.

“I just had to come out here and do my thing,” Finch said. “I hit my positions so we could come in and hit.” — Shannon Fagan, Cherokee County Herald

Lauderdale County players celebrate after getting the final out of their series-clinching 7-3 victory over Piedmont in the Class 3A quarterfinals.

Quarterfinal Results

CLASS 1A
Millry (21-12) 16-9, Sumiton Christian (23-12) 1-5 (Millry wins series 2-0)
Sweet Water (25-9) 4-7, Ragland (23-6) 2-5 (Sweet Water (25-9) wins series 2-0)
Spring Garden (24-8) 3-7-12, Athens Bible (21-12) 5-5-2 (Spring Garden (24-8) wins series 2-1)
South Lamar (19-8) 8-4-11, Hackleburg (28-10) 5-5-1 (South Lamar (19-8) wins series 2-1)

CLASS 2A
G.W. Long (27-11) 4-9, J.U. Blacksher (22-11) 0-0 (G.W. Long (27-11) wins series 2-0)
St. Luke’s Episcopal (20-11) 15-14, Ariton (22-10) 2-2 (St. Luke’s Episcopal (20-11) wins series 2-0)
Westbrook Christian (27-8) 6-3, Mars Hill Bible (27-10) 5-9 (Game 3, Mon., 4:30 p.m.)
Thorsby (26-4) 2-9, Falkville (26-10) 0-4 (Thorsby (26-5) wins series 2-0)

CLASS 3A
Gordo (30-3) 9-8, Wicksburg (22-11) 8-5 (Gordo (30-3) wins series 2-0)
Mobile Christian (25-9) 8-11, American Christian (19-17) 1-3 (Mobile Christian (25-9) wins series 2-0)
Lauderdale County (20-14-1) 2-10-7, Piedmont (23-12) 10-3-3 (Lauderdale County (20-14-1) wins series 2-1)
Locust Fork (21-15) 7-3, West Morgan (23-13) 2-1 (Locust Fork (21-15) wins series 2-0)

CLASS 4A
Bibb County (25-11) 11-8, Dale County (17-15) -2-1 (Bibb County (25-11) wins series 2-0)
Andalusia (26-4) 13-4, Holtville (25-8) 7-0 (Andalusia (26-4) wins series 2-0)
Hokes Bluff (25-5) 4-8, Wilson (26-8) 2-2 (Hokes Bluff (25-5) wins series 2-0)
Oneonta (23-10) 12-10, Sardis (18-17) 2-2 (Oneonta (23-10) wins series 2-0)

CLASS 5A
St. Paul’s Episcopal (28-9) 1-3-6, Calera (26-9) 3-0-5 (St. Paul’s Episcopal (28-9) wins series 2-1)
Faith Academy (32-3) 11-8, Sylacauga (25-9) 0-3 (Faith Academy (32-3) wins series 2-0)
Springville (23-12) 19-7, Russellville (27-14) 15-18 (Game 3, 2 p.m.)
Mortimer Jordan (31-13) 5-5, Brooks (22-16) 3-4 (Mortimer Jordan (31-13) wins series 2-0)

CLASS 6A
Helena (24-13) 9-6, Spanish Fort (28-10) 3-0 (Helena (24-3) wins series 2-0)
Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa (26-11) 1-4-6, Russell County (38-5) 0-5-5 (Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa (26-11) wins series 2-1)
Cullman (32-8) 8-6, Homewood (29-11) 1-1 (Cullman (32-8) wins series 2-0)
Hazel Green (28-10) 5-6, Hueytown 30-10) 4-0 (Hazel Green (28-10) wins series 2-0)

CLASS 7A
Smiths Station (26-15) 2-10-5, Alma Bryant (25-11) 3-4-0 (Smiths Station (26-17) wins series 2-1)
Auburn (30-7) 2-11, Theodore (24-12) 2-8 (Game 3, noon)
Hewitt-Trussville (30-9) 11-6, James Clemens (26-17-1) 6-0 (Hewitt-Trussville wins series 2-0)
Bob Jones (36-12) 15-11, Huntsville (24-15) 7-3 (Bob Jones (36-12) wins series 2-0)

To see a photo gallery from the game visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

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