E.A. Sports Today

Win, lose, draw

Baseball playoff roundup: Donoho sweeps to reach 1A semis for first time ever; Alexandria drops Game 1, rest of series Friday; Oxford splits with Hartselle

Thursday’s playoff scores
1A: Donoho 15-8, Marion County 0-5
2A: Spring Garden 2-12, Mars Hill 5-1
2A: Westbrook Christian 15-10, Decatur Heritage 2-5
5A: Russellville 6, Alexandria 1
6A: Oxford 7-1, Hartselle 3-4

By Brant Locklier
For East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – Oxford and Hartselle split two games in their best-of-three Class 6A playoff series Thursday night. 

Oxford took the opener 7-3, while Hartselle took the nightcap 4-1 The series finale will be Friday at 5:30.

The Yellow Jackets will have Peyton Watts ready for Friday’s game as he only threw a few pitches in the last inning of the first game, retiring five straight hitters.

Game One

It was all about the bottom half of the order for the Jackets. The bottom five hitters in their lineup combined to go 6-for-10, with four sacrifices, six runs scored, six RBIs and three stolen bases. R.J. Brooks was 2-for-3 and Gavin Orcutt sealed the game with a big two-out, two-run homer in the fifth inning.

Trey Mooney pitched into the fifth inning and only allowed two bloop hits, while striking out seven.

The Yellow Jackets got on the board first in the bottom of the second playing small ball. Hayes Harrison dribbled a single into right to reach first base. Brooks then tried to bunt him to second, but Tiger third baseman Peyton Steele threw to second and the ball ended up in right field and Harrison moved to third base. He came home on a sacrifice fly to right field by Orcutt.

Hartselle tied it in the top of the fourth when Brodie Morrow walked, stole second and third and scored on a passed ball. The Tigers also got their first hit off Mooney on a blooper to right field that fell in between three Oxford fielders.

The Jackets answered with three runs in the bottom of the inning. Harrison led off with a walk and Brooks singled. Orcutt and Mooney had back-to-back sacrifices to score one run. Chance Griner beat out a two-out infield single and Brooks scored to make it 3-1. 

Griner stole second and went to third on the second of three throwing errors in the game by Hartselle catcher Glavine Segars. Griner then came home on a wild pitch for a 4-1 lead.

After Hartselle got a couple of runs in the top of the fifth on four two-out walks, the Jackets erupted in the bottom of half for three runs to open up a 7-3 lead. Brooks had a two-out triple to score Watts and Orcutt delivered a long home run over the right field fence.

Game Two

The Yellow Jackets were their own worst enemy in the first three innings as they committed five errors and allowed three unearned runs.

The Tigers scored two in the first and one in the third inning to take a 3-0 lead. 

The Yellow Jackets had a serious threat in the fourth inning, but Carter Johnson was thrown out at second trying to stretch a single into a double and Peyton Watts was thrown out at home as he tried to score from third on a grounder to short. 

That was about it for the Oxford attack as Elliott Bray was mowing down the Jackets at the plate. He struck out 13 before being relieved in the top of the seventh with one out.  

Tough-luck Oxford starter Carter Johnson allowed just four hits and no earned runs, while striking out seven batters and not walking a batter, but took the loss.

Oxford did get a run in the top of the seventh on a sacrifice fly to first by Landon Howell. Trey Higgins and Johnson had the only other hits for Oxford.

Donoho 15-8, Marion County 0-5: The day couldn’t have got off to a worse start for the Falcons – or ended any better.

The Falcons got a two-hit shutout and a three-run first-inning homer from Slade Haney in the five-inning opener, then put together a four-run rally in the bottom of the sixth of the nightcap to complete the sweep and reach the 1A semifinals for the first time in school history.

They’ll play the winner of the Sumiton Christian-Lynn series that starts Friday.

“I think it’s awesome to be a part of something like this especially since we played five games last year,” Donoho coach Steve Gendron said. “The boys have been working hard.”

They went into the sixth of the nightcap trailing 5-4. They tied the game on an error off the bat of pitcher Blake Willingham and took the lead on Nic Thompson’s RBI single. After two more hitters reached base, Lucas Elliot ripped a two-run single to left to give them some insurance.

“The dugout was always in the game,” Gendron said. “The big thing we’ve preached since the first round of the playoffs is never get too high, never get too low. When you put the ball in play good things happen and I think we did that from the fourth inning on.”

Haney, who threw only 55 pitches in the opener, came on in the seventh and struck out the side in order to nail down the sweep. Willingham went the first six innings and struck out 10. 

Haney struck out eight in his Game 1 start. He gave up both hits in the second inning and retired the last 10 batters he faced.

The day got off to a frustrating start for the Falcons. Their bus broke down on the highway less than a half hour after leaving the campus. no less than an hour after leaving campus. On top of that, they had to sit through a length weather delay between games, which may have contributed to their slow start in the nightcap.

“Our boys faced some adversity, no doubt,” Gendron said.

Russellville 6, Alexandria 1: If the Valley Cubs are going to reach the 5A semifinals they are going to have to do it by forcing a third game for the third straight series.

The Tigers (37-6) jumped out to a 4-0 lead after two innings and held the Valley Cubs to just two hits. Play was suspended for a lengthy weather delay, forcing officials to move Game 2 to 4:30 p.m. Friday with the “if” game to follow.

The only hits the Valley Cubs mustered off Tigers pitcher Jonathan West were fourth-inning singles by DeShaun Foster and Sam Wade. They scored their run on an Aaron Johnson ground out in the third. 

In each of their first two playoff series, against John Carroll and Ardmore, the Valley Cubs dropped the first game, but won the next two to advance.

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