Two-out rally: Hartselle American 9/10 comes from behind to beat Athens, advance to State
Justin Schuver, Hartselle Enquirer
The Hartselle American 9/10-Year-Old All-Stars topped off an undefeated run at the AAA District 1 Tournament with a 6-5 come-from-behind victory over Athens American in the championship game Thursday night at Sparkman Park. With the victory, Hartselle American advanced to the state level in Montgomery July 29-Aug. 3.
The Americans finished the tournament with a 5-0 record, defeating Athens American twice, Hartselle National, Decatur American Blue and Decatur Central.
Hartselle American 6
Athens American 5
The last batter in Hartselle American's lineup came up with the biggest hit of all.
With Hartselle trailing 5-4 and two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Tanner Evans slapped a single up the middle to score Adam Keenum – who had singled with one out – and tie the game. Two batters later, he came home to score the winning run when Connor Shelton singled down the left field line.
"Tanner has been one of our biggest hitters all season long," Hartselle American manager Jeff Howard said. "A lot of coaches would say, 'well, why don't you move a good hitter up the line-up,' but we have Tanner down there for a reason. That's what we told him before he went up to the plate, that he was there for a reason and he was able to deliver for us."
As Evans crossed the plate, it set off a wild celebration as players cheered and hugged while parents, family and friends joined in the excitement. One fan even shot off fireworks from behind the right field fence.
The outburst of celebratory energy came at the end of Hartselle American's most grueling challenge yet. Hartselle American defeated Athens American 14-4 three days earlier but this time Athens gave the Hartselle team all it could handle.
Hartselle took an initial 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning when Jacob Bynon reached on a single and eventually came around to score on an error for the first run. Alston Howard scored the second run after reaching with a single and coming home on an RBI groundout from Riley Wiggins.
Athens responded with two runs in the top of the third and fourth innings, scoring its fourth run of the game on a perfectly executed squeeze play that infused life into the visitors' dugout.
But Hartselle responded to the shift in momentum with strong fundamental baseball in the bottom of the fourth inning to tie the game at 4-all. Jorden Robinson led off with a walk and stole second, then moved to third on Shelton's single. Shelton moved up to second and Phillip Summerford came through with an RBI groundout to score Robinson and move Shelton to third. Shelton came home one batter later on an RBI groundout by Jacob Bynon.
Athens regained the lead in the top of the fifth inning when James Medley's fly ball to right field scored Jacob Bryson from third base. Athens set Hartselle down in the fifth and retired two of the first three batters in the sixth inning before Evans' heroics.
"This tournament was about pure teamwork," Howard said. "There wasn't one player on this team who didn't come up with a big hit or play sometime in this tournament. The coaches have drilled these guys on focus, confidence and teamwork, and they've bought into it and came through big time.
"These are a good bunch of kids – there's no arrogance or mean-spiritedness in any of them. I couldn't be prouder of these guys."
July 19 game
Hartselle American 12
Hartselle National 6
Hartselle National was eliminated from the tournament Wednesday night, falling to Hartselle American in a game that sent the Americans into the championship finals against Athens American.
The Nationals took an initial 2-0 lead after the top of the first inning but could not hold the lead, allowing American four runs in the bottom of the inning. National tied the game at 4-all through two innings, but a six run bottom of the third broke the game open for American.
JW Clark picked up the win for American, pitching two scoreless innings without allowing a baserunner. He also scored a run.
Scoring for American were Jorden Robinson with three runs each; Connor Shelton, Phillip Summerford and Jacob Bynon with two each; and Taylor Steele and Riley Wiggins each scoring one run. Bynon had three RBIs, clearing the bases with a triple in the bottom of the first inning. Alston Howard had two RBIs and Summerford, Wiggins and Tom Chapman had one RBI each. Wiggins was 2-for-3 at the plate including a double.
Scoring for National with one run each were Forrest Anders, Timbo Slaton, Zac Pershin, Jacob Pohl, Mitchell Warren and Nicholas Hillman. Spencer Appleton had two RBIs and Waid Miller, Danny Conley and Pershin each had one RBI.
July 18 games
Hartselle American 14
Athens American 4
Hartselle American broke open a close game with seven runs in the fourth inning, cruising to its third-straight mercy rule win at the District 1 tournament Tuesday evening. The loss dropped Athens American to the losers' bracket.
Alston Howard started for Hartselle American and picked up the win, with Phillip Summerford pitching a perfect final two innings to close out the victory.
At the plate, Summerford scored two runs along with Jorden Robinson, Cheston Beard and Tyler Cook. Connor Shelton, Tom Chapman, Adam Keenum, JW Clark and Tanner Evans scored one run each.
Robinson and Evans each had two RBIs and Shelton, Summerford, Keenum and Jacob Bynon each collected one RBI. Bynon was 2-for-2 including a double and Summerford was 2-for-3 with a double.
Hartselle National 9
Decatur American Blue 7
Hartselle National stayed alive in the losers' bracket with its two-run victory over Decatur American Blue. Hartselle fell behind 2-0 after two innings before responding with a six-run outburst in the bottom of the second. Decatur closed to within 6-5 after the top of the fourth, but Hartselle added insurance in the fourth and fifth innings and held off a late Decatur rally to take the win.
Jacob Pohl got the win for Hartselle National, striking out two while allowing three runs, just one of which was earned.
Mitchell Warren scored two runs and Forrest Anders, E.J. Turner, Timbo Slaton, Waid Miller, Zac Pershin, Nicholas Hillman and Robbie Fields each scored once. Spencer Appleton and Pershin each had two RBIs on the night and Slaton, Hillman and Fields had one RBI each. Turner finished the game 2-for-3 including a triple and Slaton was 2-for-3 with two singles.