E.A. Sports Today

Playing for others

Inspired Ohatchee edges Piedmont in area opener, 2 Munford pitchers combine for no-hitter, Donoho’s Willingham throws his second one-hitter

Tuesday’s baseball scores
Alexandria 11, Lincoln 1
Childersburg 11, Wellborn 8
Donoho 6, Victory Christian 0
Faith Christian 2, Coosa Christian 1
Munford 4, Cleburne County 0
Ohatchee 2, Piedmont 1
Oxford 5, Springville 1
Ragland 7, Jacksonville Christian 6, 8 inns.
Saks 10, Weaver 0

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

PIEDMONT — The Ohatchee Indians went into their biggest series of the baseball season with a lot on their minds, but through it all they played their most focused game of the year.

No one would have blamed the Indians for being more than a little distracted as they faced second-ranked Piedmont in their area opener Tuesday. It’s been a year that, frankly, has just seemed to have piled on them, especially over this past month.

But Justin Powell delivered two clutch hits and two pitchers turned back virtually every threat they faced to secure a 2-1 victory that gave the Indians a leg up on the Bulldogs in their race for an Area 11 title and Class 3A playoff berth. It was the 98th win of Blake Jennings’ Ohatchee coaching career.

“That’s a great team over there and our kids seen how well they played over spring break,” Jennings said. “At the end of the day it’s like, fellas, let’s go play ball. It’s what we go to do. Just go play ball. Give yourself chances.”

But it really was more than any other game. It was the Indians’ first in 10 days and their first since Thursday’s long-track EF3 tornado tore through their community, destroying property and taking lives.

“It ain’t about the game,” Jennings said. “We talked about this yesterday at practice. We’ve been through a lot this year. With COVID, school’s different, the kids are already a little bit out of whack. Then we go through the (contract non-renewal) thing with Mr. Tittle (principal Bobby Tittle). And then the tornado hits. It kind of felt like everything was against us.

“Yesterday we didn’t have a great practice. I called them up about halfway through and said fellas, it’s not about us, it’s not about anybody but this community. We’ve talked about this Tribe thing, and that’s what it is. You’ve got a lot of other stuff to play for now besides just yourself. Play for these people. Play for community. They’ve been through a lot.”

The tornado claimed the lives of five people in Calhoun County, including the mother and grandparents of Ohatchee softball player Ontarriah Braxton and former Ohatchee football player Domonique Thomas, a teammate of several baseball players. It damaged or destroyed numerous homes, including the one of JV baseball player Zack Kerr.

Every player gathered up tools and supplies and spent much of the last few days working in the relief effort.

“At times we think we have a bad day, then you think about Zack and you think about Domonique, you think about those people, and it’s like today is just a ballgame, let’s go play it,” Jennings said.

And the Indians played it well.

Powell drove in both Ohatchee’s runs. He dropped an opposite-field double into right field in the first inning to score the first run of the game and he singled home the go-ahead run in the fifth.

Konner Baswell pitched the first six innings and Bryce Noah closed it out in the seventh, setting down the top of the Piedmont’s dangerous lineup after Baswell walked the inning’s leadoff man. 

Together, they kept Piedmont 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position after the Bulldogs scored their only run in the bottom of the first. Included in that was a runner at third with none out in the second, bases loaded with two outs in the fourth and a runner at second with one out in the fifth.

“I hate to see my community like this and seeing one of my good friends lose some of his family,” Baswell said. “It got me pretty close. It fueled me to give my all because you never know when it’s over and you never know when life can just shut it down and take everything away.

“It gave me a mindset to put on for your community and show even though the tornado might have come through there and tore down a bunch of things our community still comes together and we try to show out for it.”

The Indians, ranked 10th in the same 3A PBR-Alabama rankings that had Piedmont second, put together their go-ahead rally after Jadon Calhoun retired the first two hitters in the sixth. The Tribe then put together consecutive singles by Devin Howell, Brent Honaker and Powell to get the run home.

Calhoun went the distance, giving up five hits, one earned run and striking out four.

“We’re going to be full speed, full focus, 100 percent of the time; we’re just going to keep fighting,” Powell said. “You could have us down 17-4 and we’re just going to keep fighting. You’ll always hear us.”

The series concludes with a doubleheader Thursday at Ohatchee.

“(Winning Tuesday) takes all the pressure off us,” Powell said. “We’re still going to fight with the same energy, but they’ve got to prove something to us now.”

Munford 4, Cleburne County 0: Tyler Stephens and Riley Brown combined for a no-hitter. Stephens worked the first six innings, but was lifted after walking the first two batters in the seventh. Brown came in and finished the gem without incident, ending the game with a double play.

The Lions only had two hits. Brody Stephens had both of them, including an RBI single in their three-run first inning.

Donoho 6, Victory Christian 0: Blake Willingham had two hits and pitched a complete-game one-hitter with 10 strikeouts. He walked one, allowed only three base runners and faced two hitters over the minimum. Creed Cline broke up the no-hitter with a two-out single in the fourth, then Willingham retired the last 10 batters he faced.

It was his second one-hitter this season. He spun a five-inning gem at Woodland in February.

“Blake pounded the zone as he normally does,” Donoho coach Steve Gendron said. “With Blake on the mound we always have a chance to win.”

Saks 10, Weaver 0: Mason Jairrels drove in three runs with a pair of doubles, including the walk-off hit in the fifth, and scattered three singles in five scoreless innings on the mound. Zack Waters drove in two runs and Connor Martin had two hits.

“He was dialed in from the first pitch,” Saks coach Wes Ginn said of Jairrels. “We could tell in the first inning; he threw it really well. All his pitches were working. He was putting the ball pretty much where he needed to. It made it easy on our defense with him throwing strikes and hitting spots.”

Martin went 2-for-2 with two walks and scored twice and, defensively, gunned down two runners trying to steal.

Faith Christian 2, Coosa Christian 1: Brodie Dodson and Brady Whitworth scored on passed balls in the sixth inning and Whitworth pitched three innings of no-hit relief to get the win in the Lions’ eighth straight. Colton Pahman started and gave up three hits in four scoreless innings before giving way to Whitworth.

Oxford 5, Springville 1: Hayes Harrison’s two-run double highlighted a three-run first inning and Trey Mooney pitched a complete-game four-hitter as the Yellow Jackets won their area opener. Landon Howell hit a pair of doubles. Mooney retired 18 of the first 20 batters he faced and struck out nine.

Childersburg 11, Wellborn 8: The Tigers jumped out to a 9-1 lead after five innings, then held off Wellborn’s comeback bid in the sixth and seventh. The Panthers used three bases-loaded walks, Brennan Talley’s RBI single and an error to score five in the sixth.

Childersburg got two back in the bottom of the inning, then Wellborn scored twice and had the tying run at the plate with one out in the seventh, but the Tigers got out of it. 

William Waldrop drove in three runs for Wellborn and Kaden Goodson had a pair of hits. Jordan Fomby hit a two-run homer in the first for Childersburg.

Ragland 7, Jacksonville Christian 6: Drake Kay’s two-out RBI double in the eighth broke a 6-6 and Kay protected it by setting down the Thunder in order in the bottom of the inning.

JCA tied it with a two-run rally in the bottom of the seventh. Ethan Fair singled home the first run after three straight walks and a walk to Cam Moses brought home the tying run. Fair went 4-for-5 in the game.

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