Warriors pick up first area win over Pelham in three years

By WESLEY HALLMAN / Sports Editor

PELHAM — Thompson High School lefty Jonathan Keller saved his best start of his career for Warriors’ first area contest in his senior season.

Keller pitched like he’s had the date with rival Pelham in Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 6A, Area 10 play circled for a while.

Keller struck out nine and gave up only two hits and two walks in a complete-game gem to lead the Warriors to a 1-0 victory March 29 in Thompson’s first win over the Panthers in area play in three years.

“It’s a monkey off our shoulder,” said Keller, who called it the “number one” outing of his high school career.

Keller, a University of Alabama signee, started on the mound opposite Pelham senior right-hander Trevor Fitts, who is headed to Mississippi State University.

Fitts allowed only one earned run on three hits with nine strikeouts and two walks in a complete-game gem of his own.

“That was a fun baseball game,” said Pelham coach Jeff Mauldin. “You love to watch a game like that.”

Matt Haskins led the Warriors (21-7 overall, 1-0 in Class 6A, Area 10) at the plate with his RBI double. Chad Collum and Alex Henderson finished with a single each. Pinch runner Austin Carter scored the lone run in the game.

Reed Bright and Tanner Jackson led Pelham (17-9 overall, 0-1 in Class 6A, Area 10) with a single each.

The Panthers threatened to score the first run in the game in the bottom of the first inning when Ty Pierce reached on an error and stole two bases to reach third base. However, Keller recorded two strikeouts and a ground out to end the inning.

Pelham had a base runner again in the bottom of the second inning when Bright struck out but reached on a wild pitch. However, Keller picked him off between first and second base to end the scoring threat.

Thompson scored the lone run in the game in the top of the third inning. Collum lined a single down the third-base line. Carter came in to pinch run for Collum and scored on an RBI double to the center-field wall by Haskins.

The Panthers threatened to tie the game in the bottom of the fourth inning. Fitts reached on a fielder’s choice and advanced to second base before Bright flied out to center field to end the inning.

Pelham’s final attempt to tie the game came in the bottom of the seventh inning, where pinch-hitter Hunter Soleymani reached on a fielder’s choice. Soleymani advanced to second base before Fletcher Johnson flied out to center field to end the game.

Thompson coach Pat Hamrick said he wasn’t surprised to see runs at a premium in the rivalry contest.

“We got one run,” Hamrick said. “Jon made it hold up.”

Mauldin, who remembers when his team was 4-0 in area play two seasons ago before missing the playoffs after dropping their final two area games, said the Panthers have to regroup for the rematch with Thompson on Friday night.

“You can’t hang your hat on one game,” Mauldin said.

Keller and his teammates aren’t satisfied with one victory over their rivals. The Warriors hope to complete a sweep of the Panthers.

“We’re hot right now,” Keller said. “We’ve just got to stay hot.”