Calera’s two no-hitters lead to sweep in first round

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor 

CALERA – From the first game of the 2018 baseball season, the Calera Eagles were an instant favorite to win a state championship in Class 5A because of the return of UAB signee Tyler O’Clair and Vanderbilt signee Jacob Smith.

Both were two of the better pitchers in the state last year and have been nothing short of jaw-dropping in 2018.

When it comes to the postseason and winning a best of three series having two pitchers to throw on the mound in the first two games of the series is key and O’Clair and Smith showed why on Friday night, April 20, when both tossed no-hitters to lead the Eagles to a sweep of Dallas County in the first round of the playoffs.

Calera outscored the two teams by a combined 26-0 thanks not only to the dominant effort on the mound but also a dominant effort at the plate to easily advance to the second round of the playoffs. A recap from both games is below. 

Game 1: Calera 10, Dallas County 0

In game one, Jacob Smith faced 16 batters and struck out 12 of those 16 on his way to an easy no hitter that featured just one walk to leave him short of a perfect game.

Smith got all of the support he needed on the mound in the bottom of the first. After a 1-2-3 inning defensively, Calera came to the plate on a mission. 

A pop out from Kevin Dowdell started the inning, but Austin McKinney and Tyler O’Clair followed by both reaching base thanks to a single and a walk, respectively.

A double steal from both players during Christian Hall quickly moved the two runners into scoring position. Hall didn’t waste the opportunity, and didn’t end up needing the double steal to drive in the runs, as he hit a bases-clearing triple to left field to put the Eagles on top 2-0 early.

A single two batters later from QuinDarius Crew brought Hall in for the third and final run of the inning, which was more than enough cushion for Smith on the mound.

Dowdell grabbed Calera’s second triple of the game in the bottom of the second as the Eagles added three more runs to its lead before scoring one more in the third inning and three in the fifth to pick up the mercy-rule win in five innings.

Hall ended the game 2-for-3 at the plate with three RBIs and one run scored thanks to his triple as well as a double, while Dowdell went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and one run scored. Crew, Graham Blankenship, Chris McGibboney and Smith all had RBIs as well. Smith ended the game 2-for-2 at the plate to help his own cause.

Game 2: Calera 16, Dallas County 0 

In what has become a friendly competition of who can throw the most strikeouts throughout the year, O’Clair stepped on the mound looking to outdo Smith’s 12 strikeouts in the first game.

He didn’t just throw one more strikeout, but ended up picking up a no-hitter of his own to give the Eagles back-to-back no hitters in the first-round of the playoffs.

In another mercy-rule win, this time by a final of 16-0, O’Clair struck out 13 of the 17 batters he faced and was a hit batter away from picking up a perfect game on just 59 pitches.

While Calera’s offense didn’t immediately jump out to a quick lead like it did in the first game, it didn’t take long for the Eagles to get right back to it in game two.

After a dominant game in the opening contest of the doubleheader, Smith wasn’t ready to step out of the spotlight and drove in the first two runs of the game with a two-run single to center field that scored Blankenship and McGibboney.

The Eagles added five more runs in the third inning when O’Clair singled, Hall hit an RBI double and scored on an error and then McGibboney hit a two-run triple and scored on an error as well.

After adding one run in the fourth, Calera ran away with it in the top of the fifth thanks to eight runs that included three triples, four walks and a double to finish off the 16-0 win.

Smith ended the game 2-for-2 at the plate with five RBIs. Hall went 2-for-5 with two RBIs and Blankenship finished the game 2-for-3 with three runs scored and two RBIs as well. McGibboney also scored three runs and had two RBIs after a 1-for-1 game at the plate that included three walks.

Calera put together six triples and four doubles between the two games to complete the dominant night.

The Eagles will now advance to the second round of the playoffs on Friday, May 4, where they will take on the winner of Briarwood or Beauregard who are playing a win-or-go-home game on Saturday, April 21.