Jags suffer heartbreak at Hoover tournament

Spain Park High School baseball coach Will Smith has seen his Jaguars look like a possible Class 6A, Area 10 champion and playoff contender at times this season.

On other days, Smith has seen a squad that could be out of the running for a Class 6A, Area 10 title and playoff berth early in the race.

Smith had visions of the first scenario March 18 after watching his Jaguars defeat Oxford 7-2 in the semifinals of the Buccaneer Classic at Hoover High School.

His worst fears came true in an 11-10 heart-breaking loss to Hartselle in the championship game later in the afternoon.

“There have been days where we can beat anybody,” Smith said. “There have been other days where anybody can beat us.”

How Spain Park responds from the difficult loss to Hartselle — a game where two errors allowed the game-tying and game-winning runs to cross the plate — will determine the outcome of the remainder of the Jaguars’ season, Smith said.

Spain Park (17-9) resumes Class 6A, Area 10 play with a game March 23 against Oak Mountain.

“You’ve got to learn from it,” Smith said.

The Jaguars had little trouble in the 7-2 win over Oxford in the semifinals. Mikey White gave up only one earned run on four hits with seven strikeouts in a complete game on the mound.

Aaron Haag went 2-for-4 at the plate for the Jaguars with a triple and a single.

Austin Veteto finished 1-for-3 with a single and drove in three runs. Charlie McPherson went 1-for-1 with a solo homer. Chris Ellis had a single.

The championship game was a different story. Spain Park entered the bottom of the fifth inning with a 10-4 lead before Hartselle closed the game with seven runs in the final three innings, including three runs in the bottom of the seventh.

Spain Park pitchers hit two batters and issued four free passes in the final three innings. Colton Freeman walked three batters before a fielding error by Jake Lee and a throwing error by Freeman in the seventh inning allowed Hartselle to overcome the deficit and win the game.

Smith said he hopes his pitchers can learn from the pressure-packed situation.

“It has nothing to do with who was on the mound,” Smith said. “It was just getting out there and performing.”

Haag finished 4-for-5 at the plate with two doubles, two singles and three RBIs in the loss.

Zach Vardaman went 2-for-3 with two singles and drove in a run. Freeman went 2-for-4 with two singles.