Chelsea sweeps Northridge, advances to 2nd round

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor 

CHELSEA – Heading into the playoffs the Chelsea Hornets fell as if they have something to prove after winning the Class 6A Area 8 championship over former state champions Helena and Pelham, but still not getting much recognition statewide, but after sweeping their first round series at home on Saturday, April 20, they proved they’ll be a force to be reckoned with moving forward.

Delayed by a day due to weather, the Hornets let that extra time build up their excitement for the first round of the playoffs and scored at least one run of the first inning of each game to propel two victories over Northridge High School by finals of 4-0 and 7-2.

With the two-game sweep in the best-of-three series, Chelsea (20-11) advanced on to the second round where they’ll meet a daunting task in No. 6 Faith Academy, who is coming off an upset of No. 4 Spanish Fort via sweep.

The Hornets, however, will be riding a wave of momentum after not only scoring four-plus runs in both games, but using strong pitching from four different guys, including Connor Ball, Nolan Forehand, Brock Hill and Jacob Tinnell. Those guys, especially the two starters in Ball and Hill, allowed the Hornets to settle in at the plate and be patient on their way to the two victories.

A recap from each win is below.

Game 1: Chelsea 4, Northridge 0

While game one was low scoring and featured just 10 combined hits, the Hornets took advantage of a key run in the first inning, which became the only run in the first four innings, then rode Ball on the mound until adding insurance runs in the fifth and sixth to close out a 4-0 victory.

In the bottom of the first, Chelsea struck after Jacob Boyle was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. That was then quickly followed by a Nolan Forehand double to center field that allowed courtesy runner Turner Griffin to reach third.

With two runners in scoring position and no outs in the inning, the Hornets were in good shape. Bennett Horton then stepped up and drove a fly ball deep enough to center field to drive home Griffin on a sac fly for a 1-0 advantage.

Forehand advanced to third but was stranded after back-to-back strikeouts.

Nonetheless, Chelsea had a 1-0 lead, and that was more than enough for Ball on the mound. After allowing one single in the top of the first, Ball allowed just three base runners the rest of his time on the mound, which included three 1-2-3 innings as well.

He was rolling along and had done possibly enough to pick up a 1-o win, but in the bottom of the fifth, Chelsea added some insurance to its lead.

A leadoff single from Adam Reaves was followed by a ground out, but with Reaves now in scoring position, Forehand and Horton striped back-to-back doubles to left field that each drove in a run for a 3-0 inning late in a low-scoring affair.

Ball then pitched his final inning of the game and got Northridge to go down in order, before the Hornets came back to add one more run on an error in the bottom of the sixth for a 4-0 advantage.

Forehand then came in to close the game out in the top of the seventh and allowed just one baserunner before closing the game with back-to-back outs.

Ball’s performance was spectacular allowing just four hits and no runs while striking out eight batters.

Forehand went 2-for-4 at the plate with one RBI and one run scored, while Forehand went 1-for-2 with two RBIs. Carter Frederick and Reaves had the other two hits, while Austin Frye, Reaves and Griffin each scored a run.

Game 2: Chelsea 7, Northridge 2 

In the second game of the series, Chelsea actually ended up being outhit 10-8 in the game, but wore down Northridge with runs in five of the seven innings to pull away for a 7-2 victory.

The Hornets started that consistent effort in the top of the first when Forehand quickly made a statement thanks to a two-run home run that put his team on top with Northridge facing elimination.

As if that wasn’t a big enough blow to the Jaguars, Chelsea tacked on two more runs an inning later to put its opponent in a 4-0 hole.

Following a walk from Frye, Reaves grounded into a fielder’s choice that actually allowed Frye to come around and score after the shortstop tried to nail him out at second, but missed on the throw.

That also allowed Reaves to advance, and he eventually scored on an error again by the shortstop to make it a 4-0 game. Those were two of five errors committed by the Jags in the game.

Chelsea then added one more to its lead in the top of the fifth with a slight two-out rally. Frye and Reaves hit back-to-back singles, the second of which drove in Frye for the 5-0 advantage.

Northridge attempted to battle back with its season on the line and added one run apiece in the bottom half of the fifth and sixth innings, but Chelsea put the final blow together in the sixth and seventh innings to close the game.

In the top of the sixth, Frye laced an RBI single to center field to score Will Peacock. Then, in the top of the seventh, Horton lined an RBI double to left field to drive in the seventh and final run in the 7-2 victory.

Hill got the start on the mound and went 5 2/3 innings allowing nine hits and two earned runs while striking out two. He did a fantastic job of managing the game, while Tinnell got the close allowing one hit and striking out one in his time on the mound.

Frye went 2-for-2 at the plate with an RBI and a walk to lead the way. Forehand and Reaves each added two RBIs and went 1-for-3. Horton went 1-for-4 with an RBI and Peacock went 2-for-4 with a run scored.