Briarwood hands Shelby County first loss in tight one-run game

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

NORTH SHELBY – A pitching battle between Carson McKinney of Briarwood and Wyatt Miskelly of Shelby County led to a thrilling game between the two Class 5A teams on Friday, March 7, looking to cement themselves as a championship contender this season.

While Briarwood, who is coming off a trip to the state championship series a season ago, returned most of its offensive talent this season, the Lions were up against a Wildcats’ team that was 11-0 entering the game and had outscored opponents 106-15.

Despite both being dominant offensive teams, McKinney and Miskelly both made the night about them with their strength on the mound. But it was McKinney and Briarwood who held off a late charge from Shelby County in the final inning to pick up a 2-1 victory and hand the Wildcats their first loss of the season.

The first two innings went by relatively quiet with one hit from each team and two walks from the Lions, but neither team was able to bring home a run.

That changed in the third inning.

After the Wildcats had another quiet top half of the inning with just one runner reaching base, the Lions found a rhythm the second time through the lineup.

It started with Eli Steadman’s second single of the game followed by a Cal Higdon walk to put two runners on with no outs. Then, power-hitting Wes Helms stepped to the plate and ripped a hard ground ball to center field that allowed Steadman to come all the way home, while Higdon advanced to third and Helms to second on the throw.

After a strikeout put the first out on the board, Tyler Waugh drove in Higdon on a sac fly to put the Lions on top 2-0. But a fly out a batter later ended a threat that could have been much worse for Miskelly, who got out of a jam that saw two runners in scoring position with no outs by giving up just one more run.

Shelby County put together its biggest threat through the first four innings in the top of the fourth when the first two baserunners reached, but the Wildcats left them stranded.

Miskelly bounced back to have a 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the fourth, which became his last due to pitch count.

Through the fifth and sixth innings, each team put two aboard, but saw nothing change in the score column.

That didn’t change until Shelby County’s last chance at the plate.

Entering the top of the seventh down 2-0, the Wildcats struck out in their first two at bats of the frame with McKinney still in the game. That put the visitors down to their last out.

A single from Miskelly, however, started a domino effect. McKinney walked the next batter to put two aboard, which became the last batter he faced.

Andrew Kellum then came in and hit one batter to load the bases, before then hitting another to bring home Shelby County’s first run of the game, which cut the deficit to 2-1 with the bases still loaded.

But Jonathan Stevens then entered the game and got ahead in the count quickly against J.T. Pennington. On the third pitch, Pennington grounded out to third baseman Andrew Jones to cement the final score.

Briarwood was led by Steadman, who went 2-for-3 at the plate with one run scored. Helms went 1-for-3 with one RBI, while McKinney finished 1-for-3 as well. Higdon drew two walks, while Waugh had one RBI.

McKinney finished the game with five hits allowed and one run scored, while punching out 11 on the mound in an impressive outing.

The Wildcats were led by Connor Aderholt, who went 2-for-3, while J.P. Fox and Pennington each added a hit. Miskelly finished with one hit and one run. On the mound, Miskelly allowed three hits and two runs with six strikeouts.

In addition to him, Austin Harris tossed an inning and allowed one hit and a walk with one strikeout, while Fox pitched an inning with two strikeouts.