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Hartselle Enquirer

Showdown at Sparkman

| Tom Chappell
| Tom Chappell

#2 Hartselle falls in extra innings to #1 Cullman

Caleb Suggs

Hartselle Enquirer

It was like something straight out of a movie when the Cullman Bearcats came to town to take on the Hartselle Tigers. The Hartselle and Cullman rivalry has long been one of the most intense rivalries in all of Alabama in the sport of baseball. Add some major stakes and you get one of the most hyped Area championship games that Alabama has seen in a long time.

In an unusual twist of events, Cullman, the top ranked team and defending champion in 6a, came in facing a must win situation against Hartselle, the 2nd ranked team in 6a. Cullman had already defeated Hartselle earlier in the week and needed one more win to take the area title and advance to the playoffs. Meanwhile, Hartselle, who had already punched their playoff ticket, was determined to keep their bitter rival out of the playoffs and claim the area title. Third ranked Decatur was also rooting for a Hartselle victory, as a Cullman win would keep them out of the playoffs due to the fact that only two teams from one area can go to the playoffs regardless of ranking. It was standing room only in Sparkman park as fans packed every seat and every inch of the fence to watch the top two ranked teams compete for the area title.

The game would get off to a slow start. The Tigers would get two runners on in the bottom of the first but would strand both of them.

Cullman would take the first lead of the game when they hit a double to drive in Carter Bowen and make the score 1-0. The Bearcats would tack on to that in the top of the fourth when Bowen scored again after hitting a double earlier in the inning to make the score 2-0.

After stranding runners on base in each of the first three innings, the Tigers would finally get on board in the fourth. Zeth Malcolm would blast a homerun to start the inning to cut the score to 2-1.

Hartselle would really hit their groove in the fifth when Cullman’s Bowen came in to pitch. After Riley Wood reached on a hit by pitch and Collin Blackwood on an error, Hayden Bradford would single to drive in Wood and tie the game 2-2. Cullman would intentionally walk Malcolm to load the bases and Hartselle would have a chance to take the lead. It looked like they might take it to as Bowen loaded a 3-0 count on the next batter. However, Bowen would manage to work himself out of the jam and end the inning with the game still tied 2-2.

The Two squads would go into the final inning with the game still tied 2-2. Hartselle would work to get the Bearcats out quickly and go into the bottom of the seventh with chance to win the game and end Cullman’s playoff hopes.

Hartselle wasted no time as Blackwood and Bradford both got on base with just 1 out. However, Cullman would end the inning on a double play and the send the high stakes game into extra innings.

Cullman would make the most of the second chance. The Bearcats put two runners on base without any outs. Bowen would then hit his second double of the day to dive in both runners and make the score 4-2. Hartselle’s Brady Netherton worked hard to get 3 straight outs, which included 2 strikeouts, to escape any further damage but the mountain was still steep for the Tigers who needed at least two runs to keep the game going.

After a quick pop fly, Taylor Easterling would single to get on base. Austin Parker would then blast a shot to deep center field that looked sure to put two runners on. However, Cullman superstar centerfielder Owen Lovell would lay out for an amazing catch to record the second out. The catch seemed to knock to wind out of every Hartselle Tiger in attendance as they tried to grasp what they just saw. Bowen would wrap up his phenomenal game by striking out the last batter to win the game and earn Cullman the area championship and a spot in the playoffs. Hartselle’s Brady Netherton pitched a tough game with 22 first pitch strikes and 8 strikeouts while allowing 8 hits and 4 runs through 8 innings. Hayden Bradford led in hits with 2.

The Tigers would fall in the second game as well to Cullman by a score of 9-2.

Due to their loss, Hartselle fell to number 2 in the region and will have to travel to Florence this Friday for the first round of the playoffs. Since only two teams from a region can go to the postseason the third place team Decatur Red Raiders, also third ranked in state behind Cullman and Hartselle, was left out of the playoffs. Cullman will host Muscle Shoals and the winner will face the winner of Florence/Hartselle.

 

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