Eagles are playoff bound
Published 3:43 pm Wednesday, April 20, 2016
By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor
NORTH SHELBY – For the first time since 2011, the Oak Mountain baseball Eagles are headed to the playoffs. After beating Tuscaloosa County on April 19 by a 9-3 final, the Eagles moved to 23-11 (3-2) on the season, and clinched the second seed in 7A Area 5.
The Eagles started area play in a 0-2 hole, losing twice to Hoover on April 5 and April 7. However, Oak Mountain got two crucial area wins over Thompson the following week to keep their playoff hopes alive. Thompson had splits its area series with Tuscaloosa County, and after Hoover swept the Wildcats and clinched the top spot in the area, both the Warriors and Wildcats were at 1-3 through four area games and on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. All Oak Mountain needed to do to clinch the second playoff spot was beat Tuscaloosa County once in two tries, and took care of that business at home in the first meeting.
Tuscaloosa County scored three runs in the top of the first inning to take an immediate 3-0 lead. The second batter of the game, Taylor Clemmons, took the second pitch he saw over the left field fence for a solo home run, and Tuscaloosa County added another two runs in the inning thanks to four additional Wildcats hits along with an error on the part of Garrett DeAraujo.
The Eagles did not stay down for long, however, as they came back in the bottom of the first with six runs of their own. Five hits, including three doubles, along with two errors on the part of Tuscaloosa County, led to Oak Mountain’s huge six-run first inning, giving the Eagles a lead they did not relinquish.
The three-run first inning turned out to be the only offense Tuscaloosa County mustered all day, as no Wildcat runner advanced past second base over the next six innings. Joseph Hartsfield, who pitched the entire game for Oak Mountain, gave up just two hits over the last six innings, and didn’t give up a single hit after the third. Hartsfield threw 99 pitches over seven innings, giving up seven hits and three runs, one of them earned, while striking out eight on the day to lead Oak Mountain from the mound.
Mason Williamson and Gene Hurst both had three hits in the game and both drove in a pair of runs. Williamson went 3-for-4 with three doubles while Hurst went 3-for-4 with two doubles and a single. DeAraujo and Hartsfield each had a pair of hits in the game as well.
The win, coincidentally, was Oak Mountain first-year head coach Derek Irons’ 300th career victory as a head coach. Irons won 5A state titles in 2013 and 2014 as the head coach at Charles Henderson High School, and has led Oak Mountain’s resurgence from the diamond this season.
Oak Mountain will be the No. 2 seed out of 7A Area 5, and will travel to play Vestavia Hills, the top seed out of 7A Area 6, in the opening round of the 7A state tournament, which will begin on April 29.