Evangel repeats as ACSC state champions

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor 

ALABASTER – The Evangel Lightning concluded a special season on Friday, April 23 with statement wins against rival Ezekiel Academy in the ACSC State Championship series.

In the best-of-three series, the Lightning needed just two games on Friday to pull off a sweep, taking down Ezekiel 14-3 in the opening game and 4-0 in the second game to claim the 2021 ACSC State Championship.

It marked a repeat performance for Evangel, who won the title back in 2019 as well before last year was cut short due to COVID-19.

In the first game of the Friday doubleheader, Evangel fell behind 2-0 in the top of the first but answered in a big way.

After a scoreless first inning, the Lightning put the first three batters on base in the bottom of the second to quickly load the bases with no outs.

An error allowed one run to score before the first out was recorded, then a passed ball allowed Sam Oddo to score and tie the game 2-2. Evan Bourne then brought home two more runs on a double to left field to give the Lightning a 4-2 lead at the end of the second.

Evangel added one more an inning later to extend the lead to 5-2, but the big inning came in the fourth.

After giving up one run in the top half, the Lightning responded by putting up a nine spot in the bottom half to take a 14-3 lead.

That ended up being plenty of cushion as Ezekiel only got one more chance at the plate in the top of the fifth. After not scoring, the mercy-rule ended the game, giving Evangel a 14-3 win and 1-0 series lead.

Bourne led the way for the Lightning with a 2-for-3 performance featuring four RBIs. Patrick Yeager, Eli Whitfield and Tyler Gothard all had one hit with two RBIs. Charlie Yeager added two hits and one RBI, while Nathan Owen added one hit and one RBI. Oddo also had two hits in the win.

Charlie Yeager got the win on the mound after pitching the first 3 1/3 innings. He gave up three runs on four hits and struck out four. Whitfield finished off the game and allowed one hit and no runs with two strikeouts.

The second game was much more tightly contested, but Evangel was able to steadily pave a path to victory thanks in large part to the combined effort of Oddo and Owen on the mound.

Oddo got the start and allowed seven hits and three walks, but came up big with runners on to not allow a single run while posting four strikeouts. He pitched the first five innings to pick up the win, while Owen closed out the final two innings and struck out three and gave up just one hit to finish off a combined shutout.

Offensively, Evangel broke into the scoring column in the top of the third thanks to a leadoff triple from Gothard. Following a line out, Patrick Yeager hit a fly ball deep enough to right field to bring Gothard home on a sac fly for a 1-0 lead.

That became the only run in the first five innings of a tightly-contested game.

In the top of the sixth, it looked like Evangel was set to pull away after loading the bases with one out, but the Lightning could only bring home one run on a single from Oddo.

That was an insurance run for Evangel, but still kept Ezekiel in the game.

They led off the bottom half of the inning with a leadoff double to seemingly start a threat, but Nowen then got three consecutive outs to send the game to the seventh.

In the top of the final inning, Evangel got three consecutive singles with one out to load the bases again. Then, a hit batter and fielder’s choice in back-to-back at bats brought home two runs, which became the final straw.

Owen put Ezekiel down in order in the bottom half of the inning, closing the state championship out with an emphatic strikeout.

Whitfield led the way with two hits and one RBI, while Patrick Yeager, Charlie Yeager and Oddo each had one hit and one RBI. Bourne, Owen, Gothard and Jake Callahan each had one hit in the win.

Evangel finished the season 24-8 overall.