E.A. Sports Today

Second sweep

Piedmont sweeps Childersburg to reach 30 wins for second time, advances to Round 3 of Class 3A playoffs

Covenant Christian 12-5, Hackleburg 2-0
Piedmont 4-5, Childersburg 1-0
Lauderdale County 14-5, Collinsville 2-4
Mobile Christian 9-5, American Christian 1-0

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

PIEDMONT — If pitching and defense are the key to a long playoff life, then the Piedmont Bulldogs have found the Fountain of Youth.

The Bulldogs swept their second straight Class 3A playoff series Thursday, handling Childersburg 4-1 and 5-0.

They have given up one unearned run and 13 hits in four play-off games this year.

“Our bats have gone a little bit cold,” Piedmont coach Matt Deerman said. “They haven’t been terrible, because we’ve had some timely hits, but it’s just taken us a little bit longer to get going than it normally does.

“As long as we keep playing defense and getting ahead in counts and pitching the way we are we give ourselves a chance to win because the longer and longer you hang around in a 0-0 game or within one or two runs our bats I’d like to think eventually will get going.

“It’s kind of a cliché statement that defense wins championship, but as long as you’re playing solid defensively in high school baseball you’re always going to have a chance because it’s hard to string together three or four hits in a row in order to get a couple runs across. The deeper you get in the playoffs the better the pitching staffs are going to be and we’re going to have to continue to do that to give ourselves a chance.”

Cassius Fairs, he of the no-hitter in last week’s series clincher, threw his second straight playoff shutout in the nightcap. He gave up seven hits, struck out 12 and pitched out of jams in each of the middle three innings with a big assist from the defense that cut a Tigers runner down at the plate to keep the game scoreless.

The big play of the game came in the third inning when Max Hanson chased down Austin Luker’s shot to the centerfield fence, fired it in to shortstop Austin Estes, who threw a strike to catcher Kale Austin well before Tigers’ runner Lane Dennis got to the plate.

“That’s what got us going,” Deerman said. “That play right there, that got our energy up and that got us going, no doubt.”

“That was definitely the momentum shifter,” Estes said.

The next inning Fairs pitched out of runners at second and third with one out and in the fifth stranded a runner in scoring position. The Tigers (17-11) threatened to spoil his shutout in the seventh by loading the bases with two outs, but after a mound visit by Deerman, Fairs fired three straight strikes to fan what was going to be his final batter of the night.

“I’m not doing anything special,” said Fairs, who lowered his ERA to 2.99 with his seventh win of the season. “Just going up there trying to let the defense make some plays behind me and it’s turned out great the last two times.”

The Bulldogs (31-4) broke the scoreless tie in the fifth when Estes grounded an RBI single up the middle. Jake Austin singled home a run in the sixth and the Bulldogs broke it open with three in the seventh highlighted by Jack Hayes’ two-run double. They’ve now won 25 in a row.

Brodie Homesley hasn’t pitched for the Bulldogs in a couple weeks, but was ready when Deerman handed him the ball in Game 1.

The freshman left-hander last pitched in the area series opener against Ohatchee when he ran his record to 6-0. He rested a sore elbow the next two weeks in preparation for the playoffs and after a balky start gave the Bulldogs six solid innings.

It took a couple innings to shake the rust, but he wound up scattering five hits and striking out four before yielding to Austin Estes for a quick seventh.

“I was ready,” Homesley said. “I hadn’t been out there in a while, I was ready. I knew my guys would make plays behind me. I knew we’d get it done.”

It’s been said if Homesley was ever going to give up a run it would be in the first inning and the Tigers got one in the first without benefit of a hit. Terreance Roberson walked, stole second and came around on two wild pitches.

“That’s been him all year, the first inning,” Deerman said. “Once he gets through that first inning and settles in he’d done well all year. I don’t think he’s given up a run other than in the first inning all year. 

“When he throws strikes he’s hard to square up. It takes a lot of guts for a ninth-grader to have not pitched in two and half weeks to run out there and do what he just did. I trust him. I believe in him. That’s why I let him out there.

“I’ve thrown him in the fire. Every game he pitched was a challenge game; I was challenging him trying to see to this right here and he was up for the challenge when it came around.”

The Bulldogs took the lead in the third on McClane Mohon’s bases-loaded bloop single into right and Jake Austin’s sacrifice fly. Austin Estes and Jack Hayes had RBI singles later in the game.

When the doubleheader was over Trevor Pike delighted the team by continuing a long-standing tradition with six post-game backflips. Pike, who scored the tiebreaking run as a pinch-runner in the nightcap, will add one after every victory going forward.

With possibly three more series to play, if the Bulldogs win the state title Pike will wind up doing 12 backflips across the infield.

The Bulldogs will play Lauderdale County (26-4) in the next round.

Childersburg      100 000 0 – 1 5 2
Piedmont             002 101 x – 4 6 1
WP: Brodie Homesley (7-0). LP: Lane Dennis. 2B: Ridge Fagan (P).

Piedmont              000 011 3 – 5 5 0
Childersburg       000 000 0 – 0 7 1
WP: Cassius Fairs (7-2). LP: Ronald Twymon. 2B: Jack Hayes (P), Austin Luker (C).

Cover photo: Piedmont pitcher Cassius Fairs gets a big hug from teammate Max Hanson after throwing his second straight playoff shutout.

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