Aderholt, Fox lift Shelby County to first-round sweep

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

COLUMBIANA – Connor Aderholt and J.P. Fox came up big on the mound in the opening round of the playoffs for the Shelby County Wildcats on Friday, April 23.

The two pitchers gave up a combined three runs in back-to-back complete-game efforts to help the Wildcats pull off a sweep of Elmore County in the opening round to give them their 15th win in the last 16 games.

After Fox picked up a 3-2 win in the opening game, giving up four hits and two unearned runs with five strikeouts, Aderholt came out in the second game and tossed a no-hitter. 

He struck out six and gave up two walks and one unearned run to help complete the sweep with a 3-1 win.

In the opening game of the best-of-three series, Elmore County took the early lead on an RBI single in the top of the first to put the Wildcats in a hole.

But the deficit didn’t last long as the Wildcats fired back with a two-out rally in the bottom half of the inning.

Kaden Cardwell had a walk sandwiched between the first two outs, while Seth Hall and Logan Starnes followed the second out with a single and walk, respectively, to load the bases.

An error on a ground ball from Riley Lewter brought the game-tying run home. Then, with the bases still loaded, Matthew Pearson stepped up and drove home two more on a single to through the left side of the infield.

That gave the Wildcats a 3-1 advantage through two innings.

But Elmore County came right back with a two-out rally of its own in the top of the third. Back-to-back errors allowed the Panthers to stay alive in the inning before an RBI single brought them within a run.

Shelby County got the final out on a fielder’s choice and escaped the inning still in front, and from there, Fox seemed rejuvenated on the mound.

The Wildcats never did find any more offensive success in the game, but Fox and the defense made that a moot point.

In back-to-back innings, they turned crucial double plays before Fox went on to retire eight consecutive batters to end the game, preserving the win.

Hall led the way with two hits, while Pearson totaled two RBIs on one hit. Lewter and J.T. Pennington also added one hit each in the win.

In the second game, the Wildcats were able to play from in front early in the game after scoring one run in each of the first two innings.

In the top of the first, Lewter led off the inning with a walk before two outs were recorded. Penninton then doubled to put two runners in scoring position for Aderholt.

Aderholt helped himself on the mound by driving a ground ball up the middle to bring home Lewter for the 1-0 lead.

Then, in the top of the second, Cardwell led off the inning with a single. He eventually stole second, and thanks to an error, was able to come all the way home for a 2-0 advantage.

Aderholt’s only blemish on the mound came in the bottom of the second after a lead-off walk.

He almost got out of the inning unscathed, but a passed ball in the final at bat of the inning led to the runner crossing the plate.

From there, however, he allowed just three baserunners the rest of the game to finish off the no-hitter performance.

Shelby County scored one more run in the top of the seventh after loading the bases with no outs to close the 3-1 win.

Cardwell finished the game 3-for-3 with one run scored, while Aderholt had one hit and one RBI. Lewter added an RBI, while Pennington added another hit.

Shelby County, who is No. 9 in the 5A standings, will now take on No. 3 Rehobeth at home in the second round.

Photos available at Shelbycountyphotos.com.