Oak Mountain tops defending state champ, remains unbeaten

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor 

NORTH SHELBY – After falling in the quarterfinals of the playoffs last year, the Oak Mountain Eagles’ baseball team felt that their season ended short of where the talent they had was capable of taking them.

In 2018, there is no doubting where the talent can take this team and it’s all the way to a Class 7A State Championship in Montgomery in May.

There is arguably no team hotter than the Eagles in any classification through the first few weeks of the season and although they were off to an 11-0 start, win number 12 on Thursday, March 8, may have been the most important of the season.

Oak Mountain was pitted against defending state champion Hoover High School on the Eagles’’ home turf and they knew this game meant a little more than the previous 11 as it could cement them as legitimate.

Thanks to three runs between the second and third innings and Wesley Dennis holding his own on the mound, Oak Mountain remained unbeaten in 2018 as they picked up that 12th win in 12 games with a 3-1 victory against the defending state champions.

After a scoreless first 1 1/1 innings, the Eagles came into the bottom of the second looking to strike first.

The inning started with an error by the shortstop that allowed Landon Cato to reach first base. When Andrew Heiberger hit a grounder to shortstop, the Bucs were only able to get the out at first as Cato advanced to second to put a runner in scoring position.

It didn’t matter, however, where the runner was on the bases when Gene Hurst stepped to the plate. Hurst was able to take the first pitch he saw and drive it deep in the air between the center fielder and right fielder.

Hurst slowly crept toward first base seemingly edging the ball to keep carrying, while the bench and coaches were egging the ball to get out of the park.

It listened.

The ball carried just a few yards over the fence as number 12 Hurst had given the Eagles a 2-0 lead in a game where they were looking for their 12th consecutive win.

That 2-0 advantage held up until the bottom of the third when Oak Mountain added an extra insurance run.

With two outs in the inning, Jackson Kimbrell was able to reach on an error by the shortstop again. Cato came to the plate next and after scoring in the previous inning, he was ready to be responsible for another run.

After watching two consecutive balls, Cato drove his third pitch to left field that allowed Kimbrell to come all the way home for the game’s third run as the Eagles now held a 3-0 lead.

Hoover’s only threat of the game came in the top of the sixth when the Bucs were able to eventually get runners to second and third with just one out.

A sacrifice fly one batter later brought in one of those two runs, but Dennis was able to get out of his toughest jam of the game with a hard-hit line out to Heiberger in right field.

In the bottom of the seventh, Dennis was able to record a 1-2-3 inning on the mound to finish off the complete game and grab the 3-1 win.

He ended up allowing just two hits, one run and three walks, while striking out six batters in the complete-game effort.

Hurst ended the game 1-for-2 with his two-RBI home run, while Cato was 1-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored. Kimbrell was also 1-for-3 as he legged out a triple in the bottom of the sixth and also scored a run.