Yellow Jackets claim baseball area title

Published 12:05 pm Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Ethan Davis got the start for Vincent on April 5 as the Yellow Jackets beat 2A No. 4 Fayetteville 2-1 to clinch the 2A Area 9 title. (File)

Ethan Davis got the start for Vincent on April 5 as the Yellow Jackets beat 2A No. 4 Fayetteville 2-1 to clinch the 2A Area 9 title. (File)

By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor

VINCENT – Vincent started this baseball season out rocky, stumbling to a 4-9 record out of the gate and, as of March 7, were losers of four straight. However, since that time the Yellow Jackets have reeled off nine straight wins, moving to 13-9 and, with their most recent 2-1 win over 2A No. 4 Fayetteville, captured the 2A Area 9 regular season title.

Per AHSAA rules, the top two teams in each area advance to the first round of the state baseball playoffs. Each team in each area is required to play all the other teams in the area twice, and the two teams with the highest winning percentage after all area games have been played advance. Vincent is in a three-team area with Fayetteville and Thorsby, and after beating Thorsby twice in two days from March 22-23 the Yellow Jackets had secured a spot in the 2A playoff picture. Thorsby and Fayetteville split their series earlier this year, which meant the Yellow Jackets only needed to beat Fayetteville one time in two tries to secure the area championship by default, and Vincent did just that on April 5 in dramatic, come-from-behind fashion.

“Overall we played pretty good,” first year head coach Ryan Halla said of his team’s performance. “Our bats were good, even though we didn’t have a lot to show for it. The kids played hard, which is the most important thing. I don’t think they thought we were going to lose at any point. I told them I was proud of them. It was a big deal.”

The Wolves struck first in the top of the first inning. Bailey Deloach, the second batter of the game, smacked a single to center field and later scored when Luke Murphy reached base on an error from right fielder Cole Fincher, scoring Deloach and giving Fayetteville an early 1-0 lead.

The slim lead held for the Wolves all the way until the bottom of the sixth inning. Prior to the sixth inning, Vincent had been kept in check from the plate, with no base runner advancing past second base in the first five innings. However, with one out in the bottom of the sixth, Chris Phillips took the second pitch he saw deep to center field for a triple, and was then promptly brought home by Matthew Swift, tying the game at 1-1. Chris Carlisle, a pinch-runner for Swift, later scored from third base on an error by Fayetteville first baseman Weston Brassell, giving the Yellow Jackets their first lead of the game at 2-1.

After holding the Wolves scoreless in the top half of the seventh, celebration ensued as Vincent, a year removed from not making a playoff appearance, walked off their home field with the area title crown.

Ethan Davis got the start for Vincent, pitching four innings and giving up just two hits and a run while striking out five. Swift then came in to close the game, pitching the final three innings, giving up just one hit and no runs in the winning effort.

Over the course of the recent win-streak, Halla believes a few things have fallen in place for this team, but overall still thinks the way the Yellow Jackets have approached each game has not differed.

“Roles became defined, that’s one thing,” Halla said. “Once guys can settle in and do things it helps. The neat thing about these kids is I don’t think their approach has ever changed and their mentality has never changed.”

The Yellow Jackets will finish the regular season before hosting the first round of the 2A playoffs, which start on April 22.