Chelsea clinches playoff spot behind Hill’s 12 strikeouts

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

CHELSEA – Area play has been the gift that keeps on giving for the Chelsea Hornets, and it led to a celebration on Thursday, April 8.

After a 13-13 start to the season heading into their first area series, the Hornets swept Mountain Brook to open area play, and on Thursday night, they completed a sweep of Homewood behind 12 strikeouts from Brock Hill to improve to 4-0 in the area and lock up a spot in the postseason.

The Hornets have now five in a row with those two sweeps and a win over No. 3 Helena to improve to 18-13 on the season, and it has largely been due to strong pitching from Hill and Connor Ball, but the bats have also come through in clutch situations.

In the second win against the Patriots, Hill went six innings and struck out 12, allowing just one hit and one run in the fifth inning to pick up the win on the mound, but he was able to settle in and get comfortable after Chelsea’s strong start at the plate.

With one out in the opening inning, Chris McNeill and Reid Gongwer hit back-to-back singles to bring possibly the team’s hottest hitter to the plate with two runners in scoring position.

Jackson Webster capitalized on another opportunity and doubled to left field to bring home both for a quick 2-0 lead.

But that was just the start. Ball then singled to bring home Webster before Kaleb Hester picked up a two-RBI double with two outs later in the inning to give Chelsea a 5-0 lead after one inning of play.

The Hornets added to the lead one inning later on a grounder from Ball, which led to a fielder’s choice and the sixth run of the game crossing the plate.

Hill took advantage on the mound and allowed just three baserunners and one hit through the first four innings to keep Chelsea in command of the game.

Homewood scored one run in the top of the fifth on an error at shortstop, but that became the Patriots’ only run.

Hill responded an inning later by striking out the side to end his night.

Parker Szush then entered to close the game in the top of the seventh and put Homewood down in order, including a game-ending strikeout to cement the 6-1 area win and a spot in the playoffs.

At the plate, Webster, Ball and Hester each had one hit and two RBIs, while McNeill and Gongwer each had a hit. McNeill also drew three walks, while Adam Reaves continued a streak of scoring runs with one run scored.

Chelsea’s final area series will come against Briarwood with the Hornets needing one win to lock up the area championship.