Chelsea completes special week by beating Mountain Brook for area championship

Published 11:48 am Saturday, April 16, 2022

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

CHELSEA – With it all on the line and playing some of their best baseball of the season, the Chelsea Hornets and Mountain Brook Spartans met at Chelsea High School on Friday, April 15 to determine who would finish the week with three wins in a row and an area championship.

With both entering off sweeps against area opponents—Chelsea over Briarwood and Mountain Brook over Homewood—the two not only clinched a playoff spot, but they matched each other at 4-2 in area play to force the decisive final game to determine the area title.

And early in the decisive game to determine who would get the one seed out of the area and home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs, the two teams built off of recent confidence.

That led to the two matching one another with four runs in the first and one in the second for a 5-5 tie through two innings of play.

From there, however, Chelsea settled in on the mound and used consistency at the plate to outscore the Spartans 7-2 the rest of the way.

The Hornets scored two in the fourth, two in the fifth and three more in the seventh to close out a 12-7 victory to earn the area championship.

Chelsea jumped out to an early 4-0 lead in the top of the first thanks to a quick three-run bomb from Reid Gongwer, while Campbell McCluney added a two-out, two-RBI single later in the inning.

Mountain Brook responded right away in the bottom half by scoring four runs with two outs to tie the game.

The Hornets came back with another RBI from Gongwer on a single in the top of the second to break the tie, but the Spartans used another two-out rally in the bottom of the second with a double and single to even the score once again.

That, however, is when Chelsea flipped a switch, particularly on the mound.

Despite a grueling series with rival Briarwood throughout the week just to earn the chance, the Hornets were able to rely on Kaden Heatherly, Brandon Ridderhoff and Steven Shelton.

Heatherly settled in after giving up five runs through two innings by allowing just one more in the bottom of the fifth. Only one of the six runs he gave up was earned, as he finished the game pitching the first 4 2/3 innings with five strikeouts.

Ridderhoff got two outs and allowed one walk and a hit in his time, while Shelton closed out the final 1 2/3 innings by striking out one and allowing one unearned run on one hit.

With that effort on the mound, Chelsea was able to steadily pull away from there.

The hornets posted two runs in the fourth on an RBI double from Christian Kallaher and an RBI grounder from Chris McNeill that ended in an error.

In the fifth, they added two more thanks to an RBI single from Jackson Morgan and a fielder’s choice grounder from Tucker Garrett.

Then, in the top of the seventh, they added all the cushion they needed when an error off a grounder from Garrett brought home two before Kallaher hit an RBI single, all with two outs.

Chelsea was led by Gongwer with four RBIs on two hits, while Kallaher added two hits and one RBI. Morgan and McCluney each finished with one hit and one RBI, while Evan Jones finished with two hits. McNeill added a hit, while Garrett finished with an RBI.

The Hornets will now host either Arab or Scottsboro in the first round of the playoffs April 22-23.