Spain Park hands new No. 1 Thompson first loss in exciting 11-inning battle

Published 8:59 am Thursday, March 23, 2023

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

HOOVER – For the fourth consecutive game, the Spain Park Jaguars took down a ranked opponent by two runs or less on Wednesday, March 22, but this time, it was the biggest win of the season.

Taking on the newly crowned No. 1 Thompson Warriors, who entered the game 20-0 to start the season, Spain Park did it again, but it didn’t come easily, as the two top-10 teams went 11 innings.

In a game that featured one run each from the two in the first two innings and none the rest of the way in regulation, the two county foes then scored a combined seven runs between the eighth and 11th innings to match one another in a thrilling fight to the finish, but it was one run in the bottom of the 11th that made the difference.

With Thompson having gone scoreless in the top of the 11th, the Jags came to the plate as the home team in the home half of the inning looking to end it.

A lead-off single from Cole Edwards gave them a solid start, while he eventually moved into scoring position and then was sacrificed over to third on a bunt from Jacob Tobias.

With one down, Thompson intentionally walked the next two batters to load the bases and create a force out at each base.

A double play could have ended the inning, and it looked like the top-ranked Warriors may get that opportunity on a hard ground ball from James Battersby.

Instead, the grounder ended in an error that ultimately ended with no out and Edwards scoring the game-winning run in a 5-4 walk-off victory.

With the win, Spain Park improved to 16-4 overall on the season and has now beaten Vestavia Hills 6-4, Oxford 7-6, Tuscaloosa County 5-4 and Thompson 5-4 in the previous four games.

Thompson on the other hand dropped its first game of the season and is now 20-1 overall.

It was an exciting end to a game that was defensive throughout the first seven innings.

Spain Park was able to take the early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on an RBI single from Edwards, which drove home Evan Smallwood after a lead-off walk.

Thompson, however, answered back immediately in the top of the second thanks to strong base running from Miles Mitchell. After he led off with a walk, he stole second with two outs, then advanced to third on a wild pitch and eventually scored on another wild pitch to even the score 1-1 through two innings.

That was it for the first seven innings, as neither team could break the tie until extra innings.

But it led to a thrilling back-and-forth affair in extras.

In the top of the eighth, Thompson immediately broke the tie with a sacrifice bunt leading to Parker Edmondson crossing the plate as a pinch runner following a double from Tucker Arrington.

In a low-scoring game, it seemed as if that would be enough.

Spain Park led off with a single in the bottom of the eighth, but two outs were recorded after. Down to their final out, the Jaguars got a clutch RBI single from Battersby that tied the game once again at 2-2 to force a ninth inning.

In the top of the ninth, it was Thompson who had the two-out rally. The Warriors scored two runs on a two-RBI double from Peryn Bland that put them in front 4-2 going to the bottom half.

The Jags, however, were clutch again.

With one down in the inning, the strung together a hit batter, a single, a walk, an RBI single from Tobias and a sac fly from Clay Spencer to even the score at 4-4 and send the game to the 10th.

Neither scored a run in a relatively quick 10th inning, but Spain Park finally got over the hump in the bottom of the 11th after loading the bases.

The Jaguars were led by Edwards with three hits and one RBI in the win, while he also finished with two walks. Tobias added two hits and an RBI, while JR Thompson finished with two hits.

Battersby led Spain Park with two RBIs, while Spencer finished with a hit and one RBI in the win. Smallwood and Chapman Blevins each had one hit as well.

JR Thompson was flawless on the mound after going seven innings and striking out eight while giving up no hits and walking seven with one earned run. Smallwood got the win after going the final 2 1/3 innings on the mound and giving up no runs with two strikeouts.

Thompson was led by Bland with one hit and two RBIs in the tight loss, while Mitchell finished with an RBI. Arrington, Zachary Wyatt and Jacob Winton all had one hit for the Warriors.

Ben Pearman got the start on the mound and allowed one run on five hits and three walks with three strikeouts in five innings. Ben Ferrell and Carter Thompson were also strong over the final five innings on the mound.