Tigers' run cut short
"It's tremendous to come in here and win," Mortimer Jordan baseball coach Pat Keedy said after his Blue Devils knocked off a Hartselle Tiger baseball squad, ranked first in 5A polls, 7-1.
The Blue Devils brought a No. 3 ranking and a 21-4 record to Reuben Sims Field and made knocking off the Tigers look routine.
"We had a playoff game with Gardendale to see who was area winner and runner-up," Keedy said. "We knew the winner was going to come through here, so it was probably better to be runner-up. Coming up here, we knew we had things going against us a little bit. We've been in some games like this, but we hadn't been here yet."
"They out-played us."
Assistant Coach Chris Heaps' short summary of Hartselle's 7-2 loss to the Mortimer Jordan Blue Devils conveyed all the sorrow and unbelief felt in Muddville when the mighty Casey struck out.
The Tigers were never able to get into their game-winning routine according to Heaps. "They kept us from playing our game."
Heaps gave the Blue Devils credit for taking advantage of Hartselle mistakes, getting well-timed hits and playing better ball than the Tigers.
The loss ended Hartselle's baseball season in the second round of the playoffs, their earliest exit since 1997, when they were eliminated in the Sweet 16 round of 6A competition.
The Tigers showed moments of brilliance that kept the score closer than it could have been.
After falling behind one run in the first inning, the Tigers found themselves with two outs and a Mortimer Jordan runner at third. When the last man in the Blue Devil batting order blasted a single into left center field, Hartselle fielder Blake Heym grabbed the ball and threw for home. First baseman Drew Yates caught the ball near the pitcher's mound and threw for the plate where catcher Andrew Bush made the tag to prevent Jordan's second run.
But the Tigers couldn't maintain that level of play. Four fielding errors along with a pair of wild pitches resulted in four Mortimer Jordan runs in the third inning and two more in the sixth.
Yates put the Tigers on the scoreboard in the fifth inning with a solo yard trip, the first of his high school career. However the shot proved unable to ignite the rest of the Hartselle bats.
Joey Watson flew out to the short stop. Adam Vaughn struck out and Whit Cooper grounded out to the pitcher to retire Hartselle's best opportunity to get back into the game.
After a three-up, three-down sixth inning, the Tigers faced their last gasp in the bottom of the seventh.
Heym got the Hartselle fan's out of their seats when a base hit to right field. Next up Zac Ward hit a line drive to the short stop. Yates went down looking, bringing up Watson who singled into center field.
Hamp Tanksley followed with a base hit that plated Heym.
But Hartselle's season ended when Whit Cooper went down swinging on a full count.
Three Hartselle pitchers worked the mound with Tyler Eddy taking the loss in three innings. Watson followed Eddy for three and a portion, with Josh Markham working the close. Markham was most productive for the Tigers, fanning four and allowing only one hit. Eddy and Watson combined for seven runs on six hits with three errors.
Mortimer Jordan pitcher Ryan Keedy got the win in a complete game performance. Keedy allowed only four hits, three coming in the seventh inning. He walked two and struck out six.
The Tigers avoided extra innings and advanced to the second round when Heym ripped an RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning to score pinch runner Eric Grisham.
"We knew they would hit the ball," assistant coach Shane Alexander said after the Yellow Jackets scattered 13 hits against three Hartselle pitchers and set the stage for an extra-inning game.
Oxford started off hot as their first batter connected for a homer against Markham. The Jackets collected one other run and three more hits before the Tigers managed to collect the third out.
Bush picked up a run for Hartselle to trim the Oxford lead, but the Tigers had to wait for the second inning to take the lead with a pair of runs.
Heym led the Tigers with a triple and plated Hartselle's fourth run on a sacrifice by Ward in the fourth.
Oxford trimmed the Hartselle lead to one run with a run in the fourth and knotted the tally 4-4 in the top of the sixth.
Hartselle's Watson took the mound in the sixth, in relief of Eddy, who relieved Markham in the first.
Watson fanned two batters to shut down the Jackets in the sixth. He struck out the first two batters in the seventh, walked the third and secured the inning with his fifth strike out and the win.
The Tigers scattered seven hits across six innings, before boosting their total to 10 with three in the seventh inning.
Carden took the loss for the Jackets in seven.
Heym was 4 for 4 at the plate, getting the only extra-base hit for the Tigers.
Base hitting for Hartselle were Nic Tankersley, Andrew Bush, Drew Yates, Adam Vaughn and Hamp Tanksley.