Eagles edge Panthers with clutch hit

By WESLEY HALLMAN / Sports Editor

NORTH SHELBY — Oak Mountain High School junior David Dahl approached his at-bat against Pelham senior Trevor Fitts with a clean slate in the bottom of the sixth inning in the Eagles’ Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 6A, Area 10 contest April 5.

Despite two ground balls — one for an out, another for a fielder’s choice — in his previous two at-bats against Fitts, Dahl focused on the present, with runners on first and third base with two outs and scoreless game.

Dahl came through for Oak Mountain, as he lined a double to the left-center field gap to drive in both runners and lift the Eagles to a 2-0 victory over Pelham.

“Fitts was dirty tonight,” said Dahl, who is verbally committed to play baseball at Auburn University. “I just tried to put one out in the gap and score a couple of runs. I tried to forget at-bats prior to that.”

Dahl, who finished 1-for-2 with a double, two RBIs and a stolen base, provided enough offense for Oak Mountain senior Jake Hubbard. Hubbard gave up only three hits with 11 strikeouts and two walks in a complete game.

Hubbard, a University of Alabama baseball commitment, helped the Eagles remain in the running for the Class 6A, Area 10 championship and a spot in the Class 6A playoffs. Following the win, Hubbard quickly turned his attention toward the second game of the series between the two teams Friday night.

“We’ve got to sweep,” Hubbard said. “It’s Oak Mountain’s way.”

Conner Pinegar recorded the only other hit for Oak Mountain (15-11 overall, 2-1 in Class 6A, Area 10) and finished 1-for-2 at the plate.

The heart of the batting order provided the offense for Pelham.

Tanner Jackson finished 1-for-3 at the plate. Michael Herring went 1-for-2. Nick Foster recorded the only other hit for the Panthers (19-11 overall, 0-3 in Class 6A, Area 10) as he finished 1-for-3 at the plate.

Fitts took the loss despite allowing only two earned runs on two hits with eight strikeouts and two walks in a complete game.

Breeze said he wasn’t surprised to see Dahl provide the game-winning run late in the game.

“Two great pitchers were dueling,” said first-year Oak Mountain coach Brian Breeze. “That’s what you want from the guy batting third in your order. David is a battler and a competitor.”

The Panthers stranded base runners in scoring position in three separate innings against the Eagles.

Jackson led off the top of the second inning with a single to center field before advancing to second base on a single to right field by Foster. Both Jackson and Foster were stranded following a strikeout by Jake Williams to end the inning.

Pelham again threatened to score in the top of the fourth inning when Herring lined a single to right field and advanced to second base on a passed ball. However, Foster grounded out to third base to end the inning.

The Panthers’ best chance to plate a run came in the top of the fifth inning when Williams was hit by a pitch to open the frame. Williams advanced to second base on a throwing error by Oak Mountain catcher John David (J.D.) Crowe and reached third base on a ground out by Nolan Vinson. Williams was stranded at third following a strikeout by Reed Bright to end the inning.

The Eagles plated the game-winning runs in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Fitts walked Crowe with two outs before Pinegar lined a single to right field to put two runners on base with Dahl coming up to the plate. Dahl drove in both runners with his double to the left-center field gap.

Hubbard retired the side in the top of the seventh inning, including two strikeouts to open the inning and a ground out to end the game.