Hornets honing Chelsea finds rhythm with pitching, hitting

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 23, 2004

The Chelsea Hornets won all four games in their bracket of the Shelby County Tournament last week, setting up an April 17 showdown with Pelham to determine the county champion.

Chelsea (13-3) defeated Calera, Montevallo, Shelby County and Vincent in the bracket designated for schools smaller than Class 5A.

The Panthers emerged from the 5A and 6A side of the bracket several weeks ago, finishing ahead of Thompson, Briarwood and Oak Mountain.

Doug Pate picked up his first win of the season last Monday as Chelsea defeated Calera 7-4 in the opening game.

Grant Sullivan fanned 14 batters and picked up his second win on Tuesday as the Hornets beat Montevallo 5-4.

Chelsea’s Thursday matchup with Shelby County was perhaps the most exciting game of the tournament as the two teams swapped the lead several times late in the game.

Junior third basemen Casey Morris slapped a grand slam to give Chelsea an 8-7 lead before the Wildcats came back to claim a 10-9 advantage in the sixth inning.

Chelsea responded with four runs in the top of the seventh and Shelby County got within one but left the bases loaded as Chelsea retired the last batter and claimed a 13-12 lead.

&uot;This is one of those teams that’s fun to coach,&uot; said Chelsea coach Brian Chambers. &uot;They like a battle, they have a lot of heart and they find ways to win. They’ve been down a lot in late innings and found a way to come back.&uot;

Will Reed became the second Chelsea player to hit a grand slam in last week’s tournament as his shot helped lift the Hornets to a 12-2 victory over Vincent on Friday.

The win clinched an appearance in the county tournament championship game.

&uot;That was one of our goals, to play for the county championship,&uot; Chambers said. &uot;I think this is a very goal driven team.&uot;

Chambers said hitting and strong pitching has been the cornerstone of the Chelsea team.

&uot;Our pitchers have done pretty well,&uot; he said. &uot;We’ve got a junior and four seniors who have done an outstanding job this year.&uot;

Chance Bowen and Andrew Lafferty each have 3-1 records to lead the team. Bowen has given up only nine hits in nearly 17 innings. Both have ERAs under 1.00.

Sullivan tops Chelsea pitchers with 24 strikeouts.

Evan Andrews has picked up two wins in his role as the Hornets’ closer and Chris Holcombe has emerged as a dependable control pitcher.

In other baseball action, Shelby County defeated Corner 5-4 in seven innings on Monday in the McAdory Spring Break Tournament.

Brandon Burns gave up two runs on five hits and struck out seven in five innings to pick up the win. Justin Mallory gave up two runs on two hits in relief.

Matthew Palmer gave support from the plate, going 2-for-4 with a single, a double and two RBIs.

Dane Vansant and Dave Cofer each had two singles for the Wildcats.

&uot;We’re making strides,&uot; said SCHS coach Shane Beasley. &uot;We’re still hitting the ball pretty good and our pitching is getting better.&uot;

The Wildcats were scheduled to face Leeds yesterday and McAdory today (results were unavailable at presstime)