E.A. Sports Today

Stealing another win

With 13 steals part of their latest adventure, the resilient Choccolocco Monsters record their fifth consecutive victory to keep pace in the Sunbelt League.

Cover photo: A day after Independence Day, the Choccolocco Monsters (right) and Cartersville Cannons line up for the National Anthem before their game Friday at Choccolocco Park. (Photo by Joe Medley)

By Joe Medley
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — The Choccolocco Monsters’ winning streak, which reached five with a 7-5 victory over the Cartersville Cannons at Choccolocco Park on Friday, has been an adventure.

There was Monday’s 18-17 marathon at Brookhaven. They saw a 4-0 lead evaporate with two outs in Atlanta’s would-be final at bat, only to win in extra innings Sunday.

They added recent Alexandria High graduate Andrew Allen, and the 2024 Alabama Class 5A pitcher of the year now has two starts and two wins against college players in less than a week.

It’s hard to pull one thread that stitches through all five wins. The players take a cue from Monsters coach Ricky Clayton.

“I think the bats have come around a little bit, and I just think that we don’t stop playing throughout the game,” first baseman Jake Goolsby said. “It’s really simple.

“Coach Ricky has talked about having faith. We never think we’re out of a game, regardless of what the score is.”

The Monsters, playing their return season in Oxford after spending 2023 in Columbus, Ga., reached 13-6 on the season Friday. They kept pace with the Sunbelt League-leading Gainesville GolDiggers, who maintained their half-game lead with a 6-4 victory over the Brookhaven Bucks.

Friday’s game, which marked the start of a six-game homestand, had a little of everything.

Coming off of his stellar first start against Atlanta on Sunday, Allen gave up two hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings Friday. He left the bases loaded, and the first three runs of Cartersville’s four-run sixth counted against him.

“That kid of full of guts, and he was as tired as tired could be,” Clayton said. “When I walked out there, he had sweat rolling. I thought he just jumped in a pool, and he wanted to stay out there.

“That’s when I knew, he’s got that it factor. He’s a dog, and we’re so blessed to have him because he’s a competitor.”

The Monsters stemmed the Cannons’ rally from a 7-0 deficit with clutch and even spectacular defensive plays. Right fielder Trey Higgins and left fielder Cole Tremain produced highlight-reel catches, and Tremain’s third-out, forward diving catch in the shallow gap in left-center kept a Cannons’ run off of the board in the seventh inning.

“One runner crossed right there, and we stopped it,” Clayton said. “That runner that crossed, he turned around to me and goes, ‘Did he catch that?'”

The Cannons loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth and scored Mason Moore’s grounder, but the Monsters turned a 4-6-3 double play with it. Reliever Harris Burns then struck out William Curcio to end the threat.

“The double play with bases loaded, holy smokes,” Clayton said. “That was huge, and that’s what you’ve got to have in these ballgames.”

Perhaps the most common thread in the Monsters’ winning streak has been a season-long thread … stolen bases. They stole 13 in 15 tries Friday.

“I actually looked at that yesterday,” Clayton said. “Before this game, we stole 86, and we’ve been thrown out 11 times.

“We do a good job of running. … That’s just what we do. We want to put a lot of pressure on people on the bases. Pressure busts pipes, and that’s what we try to do.”

Pressure works.

Goolsby, who finished with three RBIs on the night to run his season total to 16, doubled and later scored on a throwing error in the bottom of the first inning.

Higgins walked and later scored on a throwing error in the second, and Hugh Windle s single scored Jacob Cooper to make it 3-0.

The third inning saw Rashad Robinson walk, steals two bases and score on Goolsby’s grounder to make it 4-0.

The Monsters’ three-run fifth saw Cooper single and later score on a double steal, and Goolsby added a two-run single.

The Cannons’ rally from a 7-0 hole showed, once again, that no lead is safe in Monsters world, but a fifth consecutive victory showed resilience. Take, for example, closer Griff Minor’s ninth inning.

Alex Hotaling and Aidan Larkin hit back-to-back, one-out singles and advanced to second and third bases on a passed ball during Minor’s seven-pitch battle with Brady McDevitt. Minor got off to an 0-2 start against McDevitt then pitched three consecutive balls after the passed ball.

With the count full, Minor got McDevitt to pop to Goolsby at first base, keeping the runners on second and third.

Minor then got Ethan Crowley to ground out to end it.

“Griff showed a lot of guts out there, sitting for eight innings then going out there and getting it done,” Clayton said. “Griff is a guy who wants the ball at all times, and I love it. …

“It’s all about finishing a game, adapting to it, and we’re blessed. Glory to God. That’s all I know.”

You must be logged in to post a comment Login