Hornets take area title

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Chelsea High School had fielded such a young team for the past three years that head coach Brian Chambers was afraid his baseball players had gotten used to losing.

But a good start this season turned that all around, Chambers said, as the Hornets completed one of their best seasons in recent memory with a 20-7 final mark that included a perfect 6-0 area record and a trip to the title game of the Shelby County tournament.

&uot;They finally started getting that confidence,&uot; Chambers said.

Lacking any clear No. 1 pitcher or many superstar players, the Hornets have relied on teamwork and good timing to carry them in many games this year, Chambers said.

&uot;It’s almost like a karma with this team,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s almost like they dare someone to get ahead of them so they can come from behind in the late innings.

&uot;We haven’t necessarily been the best hitting team, but we get that key hit when we need it.&uot;

Chelsea lost to Pelham in Saturday’s Shelby County Tournament title game, 5-4. The Hornets set up the showdown fter winning their side of the bracket in March.

&uot;I just thought it was a great ballgame,&uot; Chambers said. &uot;Pelham did a good job of fighting back.&uot;

Chelsea jumped out to a 3-1 lead when Grant Sullivan hit a three-run home run in the third inning, but the Panthers took advantage of several late opportunities to win.

&uot;We had a few mistakes and some control problems in the seventh inning that cost us,&uot; Chambers said.

Chelsea advanced to the state playoffs by finishing first in Class 4A, Area 9.

The Hornets will host Boaz today at 4:30 p.m.

Montevallo High School

Jeffrey McGraw pitched a complete game, giving up nine hits and five unearned runs as the Bulldogs fell to Bibb County last Wednesday, 8-2.

McGraw struck out five and walked five in the loss. He also walked three times at the plate.

Luke Cummings had a double and one run scored while A.J. Ward and Cole Cardone each singled for Montevallo, who collected only three hits in the contest.

Montevallo finished the season with a 4-21 record and a 2-5 area mark.

The Bulldogs defeated top-ranked 3A school Phil Campbell, Shelby County, Calera and Holt during the season.

Montevallo lost five ballgames by one run and four others by just two runs.

Shelby County High School

First-year Shelby County coach Shane Beasley stressed hard work and having fun to his baseball team this season, which paid off with an improved Wildcat team.

&uot;This is the first winning season we’ve had around here in a long time,&uot; Beasley said. &uot;We wanted the guys to have fun but at the same time to work hard and better themselves.

&uot;I think we’ve laid a great foundation for the up and coming players.&uot;

The Wildcats (13-10) failed to make the playoffs

with a 1-5 area record.

&uot;We had a

great group of seniors who provided good leadership all season,&uot; Beasley said.

With Dane Vansant, Dave Cofer, Brandon Burns and Justin Mallory all returning next season, Beasley said the future looks bright for high school baseball in Columbiana.

&uot;I feel good about the future,&uot; he said. &uot;People are excited about baseball here and they support us well.&uot;

Vincent High School

After taking some time off Vincent head coach Harold Garrett returned to coach the Yellow Jackets this season, leading the young team to a 4-13 record.

Lacking depth and experience, Vincent was starting three freshman and a seventh grader by the end of the year.

&uot;We just didn’t have the manpower to overcome,&uot; Garrett said. &uot;When you play that young you can play good for three or four innings and then something goes bad.

&uot;We had a good time and I think we learned a lot. It was just one of those trying seasons.&uot;

The good news, Garrett said, is that the Yellow Jackets return their top three pitchers, anchored by junior Jonathan McKinney, and also return the team’s leading hitter in freshman Brandon Carden.

Carden held a .400 batting average and 14 RBIs through 15 games for Vincent.

Calera High School

Seniors Dusty Downs and Jake Garzarek helped lead the Eagles to the state playoffs with a 5-1 area record.

&uot;This has been a great group of boys to work with,&uot; said Calera coach Ken Copen.

Both Downs and Garzarek signed scholarships to play college baseball, Downs with Auburn University and Garzarek with Wallace State Community College.

&uot;What (Dusty) and Jake have left for us – the legacy – has given these young kids a chance to see what it takes,&uot; Copen said.

Calera (8-7) will host Bayside Academy at 4:30 p.m. today