Pelham sweeps Calera, set for postseason

Published 8:53 am Friday, April 15, 2022

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

The Pelham Panthers did exactly what they needed to do to earn a playoff spot this season in an area series against Calera on Tuesday, April 12 and Thursday, April 14.

After splitting their first two series of area play against Chilton County and area champion Helena, the Panthers locked up a playoff spot with an 8-5 win against the Eagles on Tuesday along with a Helena win against Chilton, but that wasn’t enough.

Looking to gain confidence late in the season, Pelham followed up that hard-fought three-run win with another trying 2-0 shutout against Calera on Thursday to finish area play 4-2.

With that, the Panthers finished one game out of a tie with Helena for the top spot in the area, earning them a spot in the playoffs as the area’s two seed.

In the opening game of the series, Pelham faced adversity early in the matchup after falling behind 5-0 in the top of the second.

The Panthers added a run in the bottom of the second, but still trailed 5-1 going to the bottom of the fourth.

They then added one more to continue trying to chip away at Calera’s lead, but trailing by three, it was the fifth inning that ultimately made the difference.

After a 1-2-3 top of the fifth in the field, Pelham stepped to the plate in the bottom half and looked to finally feel comfortable.

Cody Bethers led off the inning by getting hit by a pitch, before Christian Pritchett and Logan Green both singled to load the bases.

Zach Egan then drove home one run on a fielder’s choice, while Josh Calvert drove home another one batter later with a single to center field.

Now down by one, Durbin Stewart and Makei Griffin followed the fielder’s choice with two more singles. Griffin’s single on a line drive to right field drove home two more runs, erasing Pelham’s deficit and giving the Panthers a 6-5 advantage through five.

Calera put two aboard in the top of the sixth, but a strikeout and double play ended that threat, as Pelham quickly came back to the plate looking to do more damage.

The Panthers ended up adding two insurance runs on an RBI double from Green and a wild pitch that allowed pinch runner Landon Opitz to score.

That became enough for Pelham, as JD Wilkins finished off the final two innings on the mound by allowing just one hit and striking out three with no runs and no walks.

He polished off the game for Pritchett, who settled in after allowing the five early runs. He pitched three scoreless innings and finished the game with four strikeouts in five innings, while allowing three walks and eight hits in the winning effort.

At the plate, Griffin finished 2-for-3 with two RBIs, while Green and Calvert each had two hits and one RBI. Pritchett also had two hits, while Bethers and Stewart finished with one each. Clayton Mains also had an RBI for the Panthers.

Calera was led by Matthew Windham with two hits and two RBIs, while Nick Bunn finished with three hits. Lane Busby and Mac Graham each finished with two hits, while Connor Odom added a hit and an RBI.

On the mound, Matthew Bullard struck out eight and gave up six runs on eight hits and two walks, while Will Harrison allowed two unearned runs and one hit with a strikeout over the final 1 1/3 innings.

After an offensive first game, the two met again on Thursday and settled in for a much more defensive battle that saw a combined seven hits and two runs.

Pelham, however, won a pitching battle between the two thanks to a stellar outing from Zach Egan. He finished a complete-game shutout with six strikeouts, while allowing two hits and one walk.

The Panthers scored their two runs in the top of the fifth to make the difference, one coming on an RBI single from Bethers and the other on a wild pitch that scored Bethers.

Beyond his effort at the plate, Calvert totaled two hits, while Wilkins and Griffin each finished with one.

Calera’s two hits came from Busby and Bentley Berry, while Preston Stokes had a strong game on the mound. He pitched the first six innings and struck out five, allowing one earned run and one unearned run on four hits and two walks. Tyler Douglas finished off the game with two strikeouts in the final inning.