E.A. Sports Today

Calhoun County baseball

Quarterfinals: Donoho returns to semifinals; Jacksonville walks it off; Alexandria fights off Pleasant Valley; Oxford continues its hot ways

Alexandria shortstop Brodie Slaton throws to first base for an out during the Valley Cubs’ victory over Pleasant Valley in Monday’s Calhoun County quarterfinals at Choccolocco Park. (Photo by Joe Medley)

By Joe Medley
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — Drama and history marked quarterfinal day at the Calhoun County baseball tournament Monday at Choccolocco Park.

No. 6 seed Donoho beat No. 3 Piedmont 8-4 to reach the semifinals for the second year in a row, and it came in Donoho coach Steve Gendron’s 100th career victory.

Fourth seed Jacksonville walked off with a 3-2 victory over No. 5 Ohatchee, and No. 2 Alexandria fought off No. 7 Pleasant Valley 8-5 after the Raiders twice fought back to tie it.

Top seed Oxford, coming off of winning the Perfect Game National High School Showdown over the weekend, beat White Plains 13-0 in five innings.

All four semifinal tickets are punched. Donoho will play Alexandria on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m., and Oxford will play Jacksonville at 6:30 p.m. on Choccolocco Park’s signature field.

Here’s the rundown of Monday’s action:

DONOHO 8, PIEDMONT 4: In only the tournament’s second upset by seed, and the biggest upset by seeding gap, the Falcons reached the county semifinals again in Gendron’s 100th win.

Donoho’s latest county-tourney semifinal run is the latest in a string of achievements for Donoho baseball. The Falcons reached the AHSAA playoff quarterfinals for the first time in 2019 and took it farther in 2021, reaching the Class 1A state-final series.

After a 1A state semifinal run in 2022, the Falcons earned a move up from 1A to 2A by the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s competitive balance rule for private schools.

Donoho started this season playing its first-ever home game under the lights, which were installed in the offseason. Six days later, the Falcons once again find themselves playing on the next-to-last day of the county tournament.

“It means a lot,” Marcus Lawler said. “Advancing this far shows we can really win. Some people question us, making it this far, and beating a good team like that gives us the go-ahead. It gives us the mindset to win it all.”

It also comes in the context of win No. 100 for the coach who has presided over every recent breakthrough for Donoho baseball.

“It means that I’ve been coaching for a long time,” said Gendron, in his 10th season. “It’s been a long time. It’s exciting.

“Personally, it’s just nice to win a hundred games. Wish we would’ve done it sooner. It was a great game for the program and a good win for the guys.”

Donoho jumped out with three runs in the top of the first and led into the bottom of the fifth, when Piedmont scored twice to take a 4-3 lead. The Bulldogs also scored twice in the third.

Donoho reclaimed the edge with five in the seventh. Lawler started the rally with a base hit to finish off a 3-for-4 performance at the plate with two runs.

Pitchers Blake Sewell and Peyton Webb combined to hold Piedmont to three hits.

“This is enjoyable to get to this level,” Gendron said. “To get to continue to play in the county tournament is fun.

“I don’t think those guys realize the magnitude of a win and getting to this point in the tournament, because this county has a lot of good teams. As coaches, we understand it. It’ll be fun to go out and compete against ‘The Valley’ tomorrow.”

OXFORD 13, WHITE PLAINS 0: Oxford showed no lag, coming off its championship in the Perfect Game National High School Showdown.

Two days after glory in Hoover, the Yellow Jackets put up two runs apiece in the first three innings then seven in the bottom of the fourth. The fourth-inning rally included Carter Johnson’s solo home run and RBI single, and Nick Richardson ripped a three-run triple.

Richardson and Johnson had three hits and four RBIs apiece.

Jackson Crow and James Tapley combined to throw a one-hitter. Crow worked the first four innings, allowing one hit and two walks with 10 strikeouts. Tapley struck out the side in the fifth.

The defending county champions showed no comedown after going 4-0 in Hoover on Friday and Saturday.

“I think our team does a pretty good job of staying locked in and just staying in the present moment,” Johnson said.

Oxford’s four-game run in Hoover included victories over Buford (Ga.), West Forsyth (Ga.), Lewisburg (Miss.) and Montverde (Fla.) Academy.

Crow called the Yellow Jackets’ last three days on diamond “really fun. Lots of wins and just a really good experience.”

Winning the Perfect Game tournament for the second time in three years “definitely boosted our confidence,” Crow said. “We left it known, we have the confidence to beat any team in the country.”

Oxford coach Wes Brooks, ever about the details, liked the competence as much as the confidence his team with nine seniors showed over the weekend and again Monday. The Yellow Jackets struck out once with 17 two-strike at bats in the Perfect Game final and once with eight two-strike at bats Monday.

“Our players are attacking the game like their opponents are faceless Bobs up to bat, and it’s me against the game in that moment,” he said.

JACKSONVILLE 3, OHATCHEE 2: After Ohatchee scored on Jake Roberson’s sacrifice fly to tie it 2-2 in the top of the seventh, Jacksonville’s Jackson Bonner hit a sacrifice fly to score Ryan Mitchell to end it.

Mitchell walked to reach base then moved to third on a Grant Patterson single.

So ended a combined pitching gem between Ohatchee’s Bryce Noah and Jacksonville’s Will Greenwood. Noah struck out nine batters and spread out six hits over 6 1/3 innings. He allowed four walks and two earned runs. Greenwood worked six innings, striking out seven batters and walking two while allowing four hits an one earned run.

“It was two pitchers gutting it out,” Jacksonville coach Jamison Edwards said. “The Noah kid threw really well. Our guy Greenwood threw really well. Both kind of ran out of gas late, but for both of them to get as far as they this early in the year was pretty good.

“They fought our tails off, as Ohatchee tends to do. Fortunately, we got a guy to third with less than two outs and were able to get him home on a fly.”

Will Folsom and Roberson each drove in a run for Ohatchee, and Tyler Green hit a double.For Jacksonville, Patterson went 2-for-3 with an RBI.

“Bryce Noah pitch a fantastic game,” Ohatchee coach Blake Jennings said. “The kid had two hits at the plate. He’s our leader.

“I was really proud of all of the other guys for competing late to tie it up 2-2 in the seventh. We just need to string together more competitive at bats early and start earlier in games instead of playing from behind.”

ALEXANDRIA 8, PLEASANT VALLEY 5: Aaron Johnson stole third base then scored on an overthrow for the go-ahead run in the bottom of the fourth.

Ian Cartwright’s single after Brodie Slaton fought off an 0-2 count to draw a two-out walk and stole second base keyed Alexandria’s two-run sixth. Cartwright scored on an error.

Starter Brayden Thacker got the win. Clay Bridges and Tripp Patterson each worked a scoreless inning of relief.

“Sometimes, you’ve got to win different games,” Alexandria coach Zac Welch said. “Especially this year, we’ve found a lot of different ways to win. Sometimes, you don’t do it offensively, and you have to figure out a way to make it happen.”

Pleasant Valley rallied twice, scoring four in the top of the third to tie the game 4-4 and another run in the fourth to tie it 5-5. Connor George’s three-run double was the big hit in the fourth-run third.

Starter Samuel Duncan kept the Raiders in the game, limiting Alexandria to three hits and to earned runs in 4 1/3 innings of relief.

“He come in and threw strikes,” Pleasant Valley coach Chris Youngman said. “There were a couple of times in those last two innings we had some two-out walks, but for the most part, be he threw strikes. …

“That’s a game you look at, and we outhit them and probably have more earned runs, but tiny things hurt you, and that’s baseball. … For young team to fight, fight, fight, I’m very proud of them.”

Updated Calhoun County baseball tournament schedule
Choccolocco Park
Saturday‘s results
Signature field
No. 11 Weaver 19, No. 14 Anniston 9
No. 6 Donoho 9, Weaver 2
No. 13 Faith Christian 14, No. 12 Wellborn 9
No. 5 Ohatchee 16, Faith Christian 5
No. 8 White Plains 13, No. 9 Jacksonville Christian 8
No. 7 Pleasant Valley 13, No. 10 Saks 3
Choccolocco Park
No. 4 Jacksonville 3, Ohatchee 2
No. 2 Alexandria 8, Pleasant Valley 5
Donoho 8, No. 3 Piedmont 4
No. 1 Oxford 13, White Plains 0
Choccolocco Park

Signature field
Alexandria vs. Donoho, 4:30 p.m.
Oxford vs. Jacksonville, 6:30 p.m.
Rudy Abbott Field

Championship, 7 p.m.

Cover photo: Oxford’s Hayes Harrison rips a singe against White Plains during Monday’s Calhoun County quarterfinals at Choccolocco Park. (Photo by Joe Medley)

You must be logged in to post a comment Login