No. 1 Shelby County holds off St. Paul’s, advances to round 2
Published 3:53 pm Saturday, April 23, 2022
By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor
COLUMBIANA – The No. 1 team in the state is on to the second round of the Class 5A playoffs after battling back from a 1-0 series deficit against St. Paul’s Episcopal in the opening round of the playoffs with back-to-back wins April 22-23.
After losing game one 4-1, the Shelby County Wildcats responded in a big way with their season on the line, winning 17-3 in game two and following that up a day later with a 7-5 victory to complete the 2-1 series win and advance to the second round.
Following the three-run loss to open the series on Friday afternoon in which the Wildcats only totaled three hits, Shelby County responded immediately.
In the first inning of game two, the Wildcats had three more hits than all of game one, including three singles and three doubles.
That helped them total seven runs to take a commanding 7-0 lead in the opening inning.
St. Paul’s responded with two runs in the bottom of the second to cut the deficit to five, but the first inning was just the start of an impressive offensive game for Shelby County.
The Wildcats tacked on five more in the third, two more in the fourth and three more in the fifth to jolt out to a 17-2 advantage.
Needing five runs to keep the game from ending in five innings, St. Paul’s only put up one in the bottom of the fifth, as the Wildcats staved off their first elimination game with a run-rule 17-3 win.
In the win, Carter Sheehan was 3-for-3 with one RBI and three runs scored at the plate. Micah Morris also had a big game with two doubles and thre RBIs, while Austin Wilson hit one home run and finished with two hits and two RBIs.
Seth Hall and Matthew Pearson both added two RBIs on one hit, while Connor Aderholt added a game-high three RBIs on one hit. Colby Mathers finished with one hit and an RBI, while Logan Starnes also had an RBI on two walks.
Jacob Fox, Hall, Matherson, Morris and Blake Jennings all shared short time on the mound in a combined winning effort. They gave up just three runs and six hits between them, while striking out six.
That forced a game three on Saturday between the two teams to determine who would advance to the second round of the playoffs, and the Wildcats picked up right where they left off at the plate a day earlier.
In the opening inning, they scored four runs on an RBI single from Pearson, a bases-loaded hit batter with Fox getting a free pass, an RBI single from Morris and a bases-loaded walk from Hall.
That allowed Shelby County to play with the lead, but head coach Cory Hamrick knew his team needed more run protection against a team that could catch fire at the plate.
That run protection came in the bottom of the third.
After Fox was hit for the second time, Morris doubled to right field to drive him home.
A bunt from Jace Bolan not only allowed him to reach safely, but moved Morris over to third for Hall.
Hall then laid down another strong bunt that allowed Morris to cross the plate.
Shelby County then tacked on one more on a grounder from Sheehan that brought home the Wildcats’ seventh run of the game.
Now up, 7-0 through three innings of play, it became about fending off a St. Paul’s comeback from there.
The Saints put together a four-run fifth inning that brought them to within three runs and then added another in the top of the sixth to make it 7-5.
Fox, however, got out of several tough jams in the game to keep the Wildcats in the lead.
In the top of the seventh, he gave up a lead-off double before being relieved by Morris. Fox finished with five strikeouts and gave up three earned runs and two unearned runs on nine hits and three walks.
Morris then hit the first batter he faced, putting the game-tying run on first with no outs.
After that, however, came flawless execution in a pressure-packed moment from the Wildcats.
Morris struck out the next batter to put the first out on the board.
Then, he forced a grounder to second during the next at bat that was scooped up by Pearson, tossed to Sheehan on second base and then fired to first for the double play to end the game in heart-pounding fashion before the Wildcats broke out in celebration.
Morris finished the game 2-for-3 at the plate with a double and two RBIs, while he picked up the save on the mound by getting the last three outs.
Pearson also finished with two hits and had an RBI, while Hall added two RBIs in the win. Sheehan and Fox both finished with an RBI and Wilson finished with one hit.
Now, the Wildcats will get a shot at redemption in round two when they square off against Pike Road, who ousted them from the post season last year in the quarterfinals. The Patriots went on to eventually lose in the state championship series.
That series will take place Friday, April 29 with the if necessary set for Saturday. The Wildcats lost last year’s series in two straight games, falling 8-0 and 7-0.