E.A. Sports Today

Rallying Thunder

JCA rallies from nine runs down twice, denies Donoho first county tournament win; Weaver, Saks post wins after long day
Calhoun County Tournament
Saturday’s games
No. 11 Weaver 25, No. 14 Anniston 1
No. 8 Saks 6, No. 9 Wellborn 3
No. 12 JCA 18, No. 13 Donoho 16
Monday’s games
(At Choccolocco Park)
JCA vs. No. 5 Jacksonville, 2 p.m. (Sig)
Weaver vs. No. 6 Ohatchee, 4:30 p.m. (BB1)
No. 7 White Plains vs. No. 10 Faith Christian, 4:30 p.m. (BB2)
JCA-Jacksonville winner vs. No. 4 Pleasant Valley, 4:30 p.m. (Sig)
Saks vs. No. 1 Piedmont, 7 p.m. (Sig)
Weaver-Ohatchee winner vs. No. 3 Alexandria, 7 p.m. (BB1)
White Plains-Faith Christian winner vs. No. 2 Oxford, 7 p.m. (BB2)
Tuesday’s games
(At Jacksonville State)
Semifinal No. 1, 2 p.m.
Semifinal No. 2, 4:30 p.m.
Championship game, 7 p.m.
By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
JACKSONVILLE – It was more than just the evening cold that left everyone numb at the end of the Jacksonville Christian-Donoho game in the Calhoun County Baseball Tournament Saturday night.
The Thunder rallied from two nine-run deficits, scored 17 runs in its final three bats and got six in the sixth inning to steal an incredible 18-16 victory over their area rival in a county tournament game played at Pleasant Valley.
JCA now plays fifth-seeded Jacksonville Monday at 2 p.m. on the Signature Field at Choccolocco Park after denying the Falcons their first county baseball tournament win that looked so certain several times throughout the night.
“We’ve had a year of magnificent finishes,” Thunder coach Tommy Miller said, making an obvious connection to his basketball team’s run to the Class 1A Four Four that included a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in the Northeast Regional semifinals.
Donoho led 10-1 in the fourth inning and 16-7 in the fifth, but JCA was able to climb back in it because the Falcons struggled in the field and with its situational hitting. While they did score 16 runs – 28 in the two games they played Saturday – they missed on a couple opportunities to extend the leads they built even further.
“We knew going into the game we would have to hit because we were throwing young guys,” Donoho coach Steve Gendron said. “They gave us a chance to be in the game. We didn’t defend very well and we had opportunities to score more runs than we did and didn’t do it … We did some good things, but we’ve got to defend better and our situational hitting needs to improve.”
The teams combined for 29 runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. Donoho scored six in the top of the fourth to take a 10-1 lead, but JCA matched it in the bottom of the inning. The Falcons scored six again in the fifth and the Thunder answered with five.
Eighth grader Cole Guthrie entered the game as JCA’s sixth pitcher with one out in the fifth and threw 2 2/3 innings of no-hit relief, walking four and striking out six.
After Guthrie got through the sixth without incident, the Thunder erupted for six runs in the bottom of the inning to take its first lead of the game. Cam Moses doubled home the first two runs and later in the inning the Falcons made three straight errors that allowed four runs to score.
“You know sooner or later you’re not going to keep coming back; that’s what was on my mind,” Miller said. “We’d come back and they’d jump back up again, and I thought we’re not going to be able to keep cutting this lead down.
“But we just kept hanging in there and chipping away. I kept telling them … you keep hanging in there and everybody concentrate on just getting on because the situation tonight is not like your normal 16-7 ball game. They knew that. They believed that. We kept playing hard and slipped around there and won one at the end.”
Jarrett Kilgore went 4-for-5 to lead JCA’s 15-hit attack. Brady Shaddix, Jeremy Cockrell, Eli Fair, Jonathan Carterr and Tyler Doggrell had two apiece. Moses had three RBIs, while Shaddix and Eli Fair each drove in a pair.
The Falcons threatened in the seventh. They put runners on the corners and brought the go-ahead run to the plate with two outs, but when Guthrie struck out the last batter and the Thunder knew the comeback was complete it touched off a mild celebration.
“They didn’t hoot and holler like we won the World Series but they were excited they’d come back and were going to get to play again Monday,” Miller said. “We hadn’t gotten to play much this year because of all the rain.”
The teams are scheduled to play again Tuesday with much bigger stakes on the line. The series will count in the area standings that will get them to the state tournament and they’ll map out their pitching rotation accordingly.
It was a long day for everyone, made longer for the Falcons by the result at the end.
Weaver, Saks and Donoho all had to complete mandatory area series earlier in the day before they could satisfy the tournament bracket.
Weaver and Saks played Game 3 of their series at Pleasant Valley, where weather-related field conditions moved the Weaver and Donoho tournament games away from Choccolocco Park. But they couldn’t play until Piedmont and PV finished their area Game 3, and that delayed the start of Weaver-Anniston and subsequently the start of Donoho-JCA.
Adding to the delay was Weaver and Saks played a 29-run, three-hour-plus marathon. At least Weaver could stay put, Saks had to drive all the way back to Oxford, eat and warmup before taking on the Panthers.
Donoho’s day would have been even more demanding if the Falcons hadn’t beaten Faith Christian to win that series 2-0. A Faith win would have forced a Game 3 tiebreaker and Donoho still would have had to travel across the county to meet JCA without much pitching left. 
As it was Blake Willingham threw his first pitch in the Faith game at 10:45 a.m. and the final strike of their game with JCA came shortly before midnight – 1 a.m. if you’ve already set your clocks ahead.
“A lot of things made tonight ridiculous,” Gendron said. “The highlights of the game were we had an eighth-grade pitcher get his first start, William Folsom; he pitched great. We brought in (Hayes) Farrell, he pitched great. We blew two nine-run leads and now it’s 12;15 and we’re heading home.”
Donoho  400 660 0 – 16 10 4
JCA          010 655 x – 18 15 4
WP: Cole Guthrie. LP: Connor Goodson. 2B: Tyler Allen (D), Payne Golden (D), Cam Moses (J), Eli Fair (J) 2.

Saks 6, Wellborn 3: The Wildcats made the most of their long day. They took a high-scoring, one-run area victory from Weaver after being swept in their doubleheader the day before, then drove all the way across the county to take down the Panthers in one only their third seven-inning game of the season.
They now play undefeated No. 1 seed Piedmont Monday at 7 p.m. on the Signature Field at Choccolocco. The teams play their area series later in the week.

The Wildcats never trailed in the game, but they could never relax. They were held to only two hits – singles by Rickey Garrett and winning pitcher Connor Martin – but took advantage of 11 walks. They parlayed five of the walks into the three second-inning runs that gave them the lead.
Wellborn made it a 3-2 game in the fifth, but Saks got the run back in the bottom of the inning. The Panthers closed to 4-3 in the sixth, but the Wildcats got two in the bottom of the inning without the benefit of a hit.
“Our whole team was focused; we were ready to play,” Saks coach Wes Ginn said. “I wish we could’ve used that yesterday and played that focused because we had a bad day yesterday, but our kids recovered and played well. They fought back. Today they showed a lot of heart and lot of will and determination to make sure they got two wins. They wanted to get back on the winning track.”
Martin, a sophomore, gave the Wildcats a solid game on the mound, and they rode him until he reached his pitch limit. He gave up seven hits and two earned runs in 5 2/3 innings. He pitched an inning in the Weaver game and caught both ends of the doubleheader Friday.
“I just wanted to come out and show that I have what it takes to be a good player in general,” Martin said. “Not just to pitch, not just hitting, overall. It felt like a very long day, but the excitement took over once we started getting runs up on the board.”
Wellborn              001 011 0 – 3 7 1
Saks                       030 012 x – 6 2 3
WP: Connor Martin. LP: Jett Smith. 
Weaver 25, Anniston 1: Weaver bounced back from losing to Saks by crushing Anniston in their tournament opener. After losing a high-scoring one-run area game, the 
The Bearcats erupted for 12 runs in the second inning to break it open. They batted around twice with the first 13 batters reaching safely. Hayden Dothard had a double and two-run triple in the inning, Taylor Thompson had two hits and two RBIs, and Lance Garcia drove in three runs.
The 9 through 4 slots in the Bearcats’ lineup – Dothard, Jackson Williams, Elijah Smith, Thompson and Devin Anderson – were aa combined 15-for-20 with 12 RBIs. Williams was 5-for-5 and Thompson was 4-for-4. The Bearcats pounded 21 hits and batted .656 as a team in the game.
Garcia and Williams combined to hold the Bulldogs to four hits in five innings. 

The Bearcats now play sixth-seeded Ohatchee Monday at 4:30 p.m. on Choccolocco Park’s BB1 pod field.

Anniston               000 10 – 1 4 4
Weaver                  5(12)0 8x – 25 21 0

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