E.A. Sports Today

Donoho’s in

Falcons sweep Sumiton Christian to reach Class 1A baseball title series, win clincher in bottom of eighth

Donoho 6-2, Sumiton Christian 4-1
Bayshore Christian at Brantley, Thursday, 4:30 p.m.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

SUMITON – The massive mountain of bodies was piling up on the pitcher’s mound and Tyler Allen was on the bottom of it all. He didn’t mind. He was celebrating the biggest baseball win in school history.

The Donoho Falcons earned their first trip to the state championship series Wednesday when they swept a doubleheader from Sumiton Christian, 6-4 and 2-1 in eight innings.

The Falcons (23-10) earned their trip in dramatic fashion when Connor Goodson raced home from second on an infield error hit off the bat of Tyler Allen, the No. 9 hitter in the lineup, with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Once the run scored, the players started piling out of the dugout and made a beeline for Allen. He knew what was coming.

“This is my third time ever dogpiling,” Allen said after dusting himself off. “I turned around and saw everybody coming at me, so all I could do is fall. I took it because it was going to happen regardless. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”

Falcons coach Steve Gendron was off to side yelling “real loud” letting the players have their moment. He had dogpiled only once a player, after his Mississippi State team won the 2001 SEC Tournament, and he was definitely somewhere on the top of it.

“I am a big fan of the dog pile and I’m jealous they get to do it,” he said. “I only did it one time in my life and Tyler’s done it three. It’s awesome. I wish I was 17 years old again. I’d be in there scrapping in there with them.”

After the dog pile and a stop at Green Top BBQ for a celebratory meal, the Falcons will begin preparing for the winner of Thursday’s Bayshore Christian-Brantley series Tuesday at Montgomery’s Paterson Field (7 p.m.) before moving to Riverwalk Stadium for the clincher Wednesday at 4.

The bottom of the Falcons’ lineup had been delivering all day and it fueled the winning rally in the eighth inning of Game 2.

Goodson led off the inning with a single to left and advanced to second on a one-out sacrifice by Marcus Lawler. The Falcons delivered five successful sacrifices in the doubleheader.

The Eagles then changed pitchers, moving starter Tyler Ingle to third for Ashton McClendon, who faced the last batter of the opener, after 125 pitches. Allen fell behind in the count 1-2, then hit a grounder right to the new third baseman that Ingle fielded, then one-hopped the throw to first. Goodson came all the way around from second with the winning run.

“I was just rounding third and I saw him bobble it and I heard (coach) Steve (Gendron) say, ‘go, go, go; you gotta score,’” Goodson said. “I was gonna dive in there if I had to, anything that was necessary at that point. We had to win it. When I crossed the plate I heard everybody going crazy. Then I saw everybody dogpiling in front of the mound so I went and got in it.”

The way he was feeling, Allen probably could’ve lifted it all in one piece.

“Steve always tells us, put the ball in play good things will happen,” he said. “I got down in the count, but fought back and put it in play. I’m glad I could do something for our team. It’s real special to be doing what we’re doing now.”

Willingham was brilliant on the mound. He threw his playoff-low 79 pitches in eight innings (63 strikes), giving up five hits and striking out three. He retired 16 of the last 18 batters he faced and gave up only one hit after Sumiton scored its run on an RBI single in the third.

“That’s what I was told, I didn’t believe it,” Willingham said. “I knew I was throwing strikes and they were putting it in play and we were making plays, but I didn’t think it was that efficient. It feels awesome to me, this being my last year and to go out like this.”

In the first game, the Falcons trailed 2-0 early in the game, but put together a two-out rally in the fourth that produced three runs to take the lead for good.

They carried a 6-3 lead into the seventh, then endured a Sumiton threat that saw it load the bases with one out. The Eagles scored one run and kept the bases loaded, but Judson Billings relieved Donoho starter Slade Haney on the mound and got the final two outs on a strikeout and a pop to first.

In the inning they took the lead, they loaded the bases on a single and two walks, then scored their first run on a dropped third-strike passed ball that would have been the final out of the inning. 

Willingham followed with a two-run double to put the Falcons ahead. They extended the lead to 4-2 on Will Folsom’s two-out RBI single in the fifth. 

“Our pitching and our defense has been phenomenal in the postseason,” Gendron said. “If your pitching and playing good defense, the timely hitting is going to happen and it worked out today.”

Sumiton (17-20) got the run back in the bottom of the inning, but Donoho tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the seventh on Folsom’s two-run single.

The bottom four hitters in Donoho’s two lineups Wednesday delivered six of the Falcons’ 13 hits and scored five of their eight runs.

“The bottom of the lineup did some really awesome stuff,” Gendron said. “There are a lot of coaches in the playoffs who’d like to have that kind of production we had at the bottom of the lineup.”

Game 1
Donoho 6, Sumiton Christian 4
Donoho 000 310 2 — 6 8 2
Sumiton 101 010 1 — 4 11 0
WP: Slade Haney. LP: Griffin Myers. S: Judson Billings. 2B: Blake Willingham (D), Justin Hicks (S), Tyler Ingle (S).

Game 2
Donoho 2, Sumiton 1
Sumiton   001 000 00 – 1 5 2
Donoho    000 010 01 – 2 5 0
WP: Blake Willingham. LP: Tyler Ingle. 

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