Pleasant surprise – New starting pitchers lead 14-3 Chelsea

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 12, 2005

With leading hitter James Ward returning for his senior season, any questions about Chelsea’s chances of repeating last year’s succes hinged on a mostly untested pitching staff.

The Hornets lost their top five pitchers from a 2004 campaign that ended with a 22-8 overall record and a trip to the second round of the Class 4A playoffs.

While senior players like Ward and Casey Morris had already shown their worth at the plate and in leadership roles, coach Brian Chambers had no proven pitchers to turn to on opening day.

Enter Douglas Pate and Zach Richey.

&uot;They are very similar to the pitchers we had last year,&uot; Chambers said.

&uot;They are feeding off of last year’s success.&uot;

The pitching of Pate and Richey have Chelsea (14-3) in prime position for another run at the Area 8 crown and a return to the state playoffs.

The Hornets picked up their second area win Friday at Montevallo behind the pitching of Richey, who inked his fifth win of the year in a complete game decision.

Richey gave up four hits and walked one, allowing only one earned run in the 4-2 win.

Walker Kent was 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored, while Pate added two RBIs for Chelsea.

Jeff McGraw went the distance for Montevallo and was charged with the loss.

Cory Lovelady homered and was hit by a pitch and Justin Stephens had an RBI for Montevallo.

Richey carries a 1.40 earned run average and 41 strikeouts into the thick of the area schedule. Pate also has 41 strikeouts to go along with a 1.81 ERA.

&uot;They can both throw three pitches for strikes,&uot; Chambers said. &uot;And they can get the key strikeout when they need it.

&uot;Pitching and catching is your number one and number two priority.&uot;

Chelsea’s catcher spot is secured by Ward, a Bevill State Community College signee, who leads the team with a .466 batting average and 18 RBIs.

&uot;Catcher is a key spot for any team,&uot; Chambers said. &uot;James does a good job for us.&uot;

Briarwood 10, Talladega 2: Left-handed sophomore Jeffrey Vincent won his third straight game for Briarwood (19-8) to extend the Lions’ streak to seven. Vincent struck out eight in four innings. Grant Luke and Lee Edge each had two hits and two RBIs while Tyler Ogard also added two RBIs off a double. Dugan Nelson tripled and knocked in three.

Briarwood 3, Talladega 2: Grant Luke’s solo home run in the fourth inning tied the game at two. The Lions took the lead for good in the fifth when Kevin Pence’s two-out single drove in senior Brad Nichols. Briarwood closer Jacob Butler retired six hitters in a row to pick up his second save of the year.

Briarwood 5, Oxford 4: Kevin Pence went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and pitched six strong innings for Briarwood before running into some trouble in the seventh. Jacob Butler earned the save for Briarwood. Evans Smith walked twice and stole a base for the Lions.

Holt 6, Montevallo 2: Chad Glass and Casey Smith each had a hit and a run scored for Montevallo. Jeff McGraw went all seven innings and struck out nine in the loss.

Calera 1, Vincent 0: Curtis Sherman knocked in Matt Tracy for the game’s only run as the Eagles (5-8 overall) moved to 2-2 in area play. Cory Turnbloom wen the distance for Calera, striking out 12 and walking two in the seven inning one-hitter.

Wetumpka 14, Shelby County 6: Dave Cofer hit two home runs and had three RBIs for Shelby County. Four Wildcat pitchers scattered 14 runs on six Wetumpka hits.

Chilton County 2, Shelby County 0: Josh Dikis struck out three and walked one in six innings of work for the Wildcats. Four different Shelby County batters each had one hit in the loss.

Chilton County 7, Shelby County 6: Four Shelby County errors helped Chilton County score seven runs on just two hits – all in the final inning – to beat the Wildcats. Dave Cofer went 4-for-5 and scored a run for Shelby

County and Aaron Howard added two hits. Justin Mallory struck out eight in six innings of work for SCHS