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Hartselle Enquirer
Hartselle's Brady Netherton pitches against Decatur. | Caleb Suggs

Hartselle drops first game to Decatur

Caleb Suggs

Hartselle Enquirer

Hartselle’s biggest series of the regular season started Tuesday night when the eighth ranked Tigers hosted the third ranked Decatur Red Raiders. The series will most likely decided the area champion and Decatur was out for revenge. Last year the Red Raiders came into this series on a huge wave of momentum after defeating the Cullman Bearcats, only to be swept by the Tigers. Decatur ended up being left out of the playoffs despite being ranked third, behind Cullman and Hartselle respectively, because only two teams from an area can advance to playoffs. This year, with Cullman in a new area, everyone knew the area championship would come down to these two teams.

Hartselle kept almost every player for Decatur in check for most of the game. Unfortunately, for Hartselle, the one player they didn’t was Auburn commit and Alabama Mr. Baseball candidate Tanner Burns. Burns single handedly lifted the Raiders to victory in this game.

Burns started the game with a triple. Nathan Howell drove him with an RBI to put the Raiders up 1-0. Hartselle looked primed to take the lead in the third when they loaded the bases with one out thanks to a walk and a single and double from Connor Burks and Eric Stephenson. Brady Netherton then hit a shot that looked like it would score a run, but it hit the pitcher who recovered in time to pick the ball up and throw out the runner at home. Hartselle ended the inning with no runs.

Decatur added to their lead in fifth when Burns blasted a two run home run to put Decatur up 3-0.

Hartselle attempted to make a last ditch comeback effort in the seventh inning, an effort that started off well as Chuck Ord walked and Taylor Easterling singled. Grayson Bray knocked a shot to center, but the Decatur center fielder made a diving catch to secure the out. However, the runner at third was able to tag and score to cut the lead to 3-1. From there, Decatur decided to not take any chances with another runner on third as they brought in Burns to finish the game. Hartselle fans jumped to their feet when Riley Wood blasted a shot to left field, but the ball went just foul much to their dismay. Burns ended up getting the strikeout to give Decatur the win 3-1 and a 1-0 series lead.

Jackson Lovelace took the win for Decatur, while Burns got the save. Lovelace gave up four hits and one run with eight strikeouts. Brady Netherton took the loss for the Tigers. Netherton gave up four hits, three runs and a home run with four strikeouts and three walks. Both teams had four hits in the game with Burns being the only player with more than one.

The two teams will finish their series with a doubleheader at Decatur on Thursday April 6 beginning at 4:30 p.m.