E.A. Sports Today

On a mission

Hartselle out to win it all for its coach, eliminates Oxford; Alexandria’s road ends on road, Piedmont splits; UPDATED with Alexandria photo

Friday’s playoff scores
2A: Mars Hill 13, Spring Garden 0
2A: G.W. Long 7-17, Ranburne 6-0
3A: Piedmont 5-6, Winfield 4-7
5A: Russellville 9, Alexandria 0
6A: Hartselle 7, Oxford 0
Saturday’s game
3A: Winfield at Piedmont, 1 p.m.

By Brant Locklier
For East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – Hartselle head baseball coach William Booth is fighting a quiet battle with cancer and his baseball team is on a mission to win a state championship for him.

The Tigers moved a step closer to that goal Friday night when they blanked Oxford 7-0 to win the series. Actually, they came from one game down to win the last two in the series and move onto the state semifinals.

Booth, who is undergoing chemo treatments in his battle, leads his team by example and he explained about how his team turned it around in the Oxford series.

“I told the boys we just had to change our plans,” he said. “We came here to win two straight – we just had to win the last two instead of the first two. We had a similar series with Oxford a couple of years back, so it had been done before, so I knew we had a chance to do it.”

The Tigers’ bats woke up in the third inning as they scored five runs to break open a pitcher’s duel. 

They showed patience at the plate as they had four walks and four hits in the inning. Drew Carteis had a run-scoring single and Peyton Steele a two-run double to key the rally. The Tigers ended up with 10 hits in the game, which was three more than they had combined in the first two games.

“We had not hit really well all year, but I told our guys to quit swinging at balls in the dirt,” said Booth.

The Tigers laid off balls out of the strike zone, hit the ball into holes created by infield shifts and were just patient at the plate.

They picked up two more runs in the fourth inning on two more hits and two walks to open up a 7-0 lead.

The game was moved from Choccolocco Park back to Oxford’s former campus home, Bud McCarty Field, due to the Gulf South Conference Tournament being played at the Big House. It was the first game in the friendly confines since 2019 and the place was packed with people lining the fence on top of trucks all across the outfield fence.

Jo Jo Williamson, a freshman and No. 8 hitter in the lineup, led the Tigers’ attack at the plate with a 4-for-4 night, all of which were singles. Caleb Pittman got the win for the Tigers allowing no runs, scattering three hits and striking out nine.

 The Tigers only allowed one run and six hits in the last two games of the series.

“We are one of the youngest team in the state, but they can play,” Booth said. “Our three pitchers are being recruited by Auburn and none of them are seniors.”

Hartselle 7, Oxford 0
(Hartselle wins series, 2-1)
Hartselle               005 200 0 – 7 10 0
Oxford                   000 000 0 – 0   3 0
WP: Caleb Pittman. LP: Peyton Watts. 2B: Coleman Mizell (H), Drew Carteis (H), Blaze Gillespie (H).

Here is the force play at home plate that opened the door for Russellville’s nine-run ninth inning against Alexandria. The runner was ruled safe although he appears inches from the plate with ball in glove and catcher’s foot on the dish. (Photo by Kimber Ritchie)

Russellville 9, Alexandria 0: A close play at the plate on a bases-loaded ball to the pitcher that didn’t go Alexandria’s way opened the door for a nine-run ninth inning that ended the Valley Cubs’ season.

Russellville loaded the bases in the ninth against senior starter Wesley Wright on an error, double and hit batsman. Then came the play that changed the game.

Canyon Pace hit a two-hopper Wright came off the mound to field and went home for the force, but it was ruled the throw pulled catcher Jake Upton off the plate and the game’s first run scored. Reed Hill followed with a two-run single and after a sacrifice Grayson Thorpe singled home a run to make it 4-0 and get Wright out of the game.

The Tigers continued to score off Andrew Allen. They sent 14 batters to the plate in the inning, 10 after the controversial play at the plate.

“He made a great play, great throw and we thought it beat (courtesy runner Brayden Heaps) … but the umpires do not agree,” Cubs coach Andy Shaw said. “But we had so many chances to do something offensively to help (Wright) out. We just didn’t get it done at the plate. You’ve just got to play so perfect with them. You saw what happened when the door got opened.”

Wright was brilliant for eight innings in a scoreless pitching duel. Through the first eight he allowed four hits and struck out 10 on 97 pitches, and set the school’s single-season record for strikeouts (101).

At one point in the game he retired 14 in a row (on 53 pitches), 16 if you count the fielder’s choice and the run the Cubs cut down at the plate to end the first inning.

“He was so good, located it so well,” Shaw said. “He watched Austin (West) do a great job last night and said we can get these guys and he came out and just pitched great.”

Russellville 9, Alexandria 0
(Russellville wins series 2-0)
Russellville          000 000 009 – 9 11 1
Alexandria           000 000 000 – 0   3 1
WP: Reed Hill. LP: Wesley Wright. 2B: Eli Gipson 2 (R), Jackson Lindsey (R), Canyon Pace (R).

Piedmont 5-6, Winfield 4-7: A pair of one-run games sets up a winner-take-all Game 3 at Piedmont Saturday at 1 p.m.

Jack Hayes’ bases-loaded single with one out in the eighth inning gave the Bulldogs the win in the opener. Hayes also hit a solo homer in the sixth. The Bulldogs had the lead three times in the game.

In the nightcap, Winfield used a three-run third to open a 6-3 lead, then had to withstand Piedmont’s comeback bid. opened a 6-3 lead after three innings.

Hunter Busha’s second home in as many innings gave Winfield a 7-5 lead in the fourth. Max Hanson’s squeezed made it 7-6 in the seventh and the Bulldogs had the tying run at second with two outs but couldn’t get it home.

Sean Smith hit a two-run homer for Piedmont in the fourth.

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