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HHS faces tough test at Fort Payne

Hunter McCaghren receives a photo from coach William Booth during senior night as Keith and Kim McCaghren look on. | Special to the Enquirer: Wendy Swann

Hartselle will be facing one of the top pitchers in Class 5A this weekend when it plays at Fort Payne in the first round of the state playoffs.

Head baseball coach William Booth said his coaches scouted Fort Payne (27-7) and their No. 1 pitcher, Austin Carpenter. Carpenter pitches in the upper 80 mph range.

“The last pitch he threw against Madison County, it was 89,” Booth said. “We haven’t faced this kind of pitching except for maybe once or twice all season. He’s as good as we’ll probably see. We’ll have to be ready to hit, that’s for sure.

“This is probably the strongest team we’ve ever faced in the first round since I’ve been here,” Booth added.

Booth said he hasn’t decided who his starting pitchers will be in the game, but it appears unlikely that any of them will pitch a complete game. Hartselle has used about six pitchers in the last couple of weeks. All of them have only pitched two or three innings at a time.

“We have five or six guys that I feel comfortable putting out there,” Booth said. “We’re trying to change the flow of the game and not let the opponents get used to a pitcher.”

While Hartselle has done a better job of keeping opponents’ scoring down, the Tigers haven’t been able to muster as many runs. Booth attributes that to the lack of clutch hitting.

“We’ll get nine or 10 hits a game, but we’ve never had the clutch hit,” Booth said. “We’ll get a couple of hits with two outs and then we can’t get the third hit to score some runs. If we could get a clutch hit or two, I think we might have a chance to compete with them.”

Booth said it will take an outstanding effort from the pitchers and the defense to win the game.

“We just haven’t been very consistent all year,” Booth said. “We’re just going to have to put it all together.”