Chelsea keeps playoffs, area championship hopes alive with upset of Spain Park

Published 7:27 am Wednesday, April 19, 2023

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

CHELSEA – Not only did the Chelsea baseball team improve to above .500 on Tuesday, April 18 with their 18th win of the season, but the Hornets kept their chances of a playoff spot and area championship alive and well with a strong showing against the No. 4 Spain Park Jaguars.

The Hornets overcame an early 1-0 deficit in the opening inning by outscoring Spain Park 8-2 the rest of the way, including a big four-run sixth inning that helped create the necessary separation in the five-run win.

It was Spain Park, however, who struck first with an RBI double from Jacob Tobias in the top of the first inning, following a one-out double from Cole Edwards one batter earlier.

That brought Chelsea to the plate facing a 1-0 deficit in the opening inning, but the Hornets quickly erased it.

A leadoff double from Chris McNeill got the offense rolling, while a sac bunt moved him over to third. Walker Thomas then drove McNeill home on an RBI ground out, while Jackson Morgan followed with a solo home run driven over the wall in center field to give the Hornets an early 2-1 lead.

That led into a scoreless next two innings, but in the fourth, Chelsea started to create some breathing room.

Following a leadoff strikeout, Cody Fortenberry singled to center field, while Paxton Stallings quickly drove him home on an RBI double to left field. After a second out was recorded, Gannon Pharr brought home Stallings with an RBI single of his own on a fly ball to right field that gave the Hornets a 4-1 lead through four innings of play.

Spain Park got one run back in the top of the fifth, but the Jags left two runners in scoring position with one out and the bases loaded with two outs to miss an opportunity at drawing closer.

That became key as the Hornets struck next in the bottom of the sixth with the final blow.

An RBI double from Stallings, an RBI single from Aiden Craven and a two-run home run from Bryson Morman put four more on the board for the Hornets to give them an 8-2 lead going to the final inning.

That deficit became too much for the visiting Jaguars. They added one more run in the top of the seventh to make it 8-3, but they couldn’t get any closer, as the Hornets finished off the win.

Chelsea was led by Stallings with two hits and two RBIs with two runs scored, while McNeill finished with two hits, a walk and one run scored. Morman added a hit and two RBIs, while Pharr, Craven and Morgan each finished with a hit and one RBI.

Fortenberry and Hughes finished with one hit each, while Thomas added an RBI.

On the mound, Logan Moller pitched the first 4 2/3 innings on the mound, striking out five and giving up two runs on four hits and two walks. Brandon Ridderhoff then finished out the game, allowing no hits and one run on one walk with two strikeouts.

With the win, Chelsea’s playoff picture became a lot more clear with a second win over the Jags meaning an area title, while a loss to the Jags on Thursday, April 20 and a Hewitt-Trussville loss to Oak Mountain on the same night would also get the Hornets into the playoffs.

Should Chelsea lose to Spain Park in the second game of the series and Hewitt-Trussville complete the sweep of the Eagles, then the two would face off in a play-in game for a spot in the Class 7A playoffs.