Spain Park wins two final-inning games over No. 8 James Clemens to open playoffs

Published 1:28 am Saturday, April 29, 2023

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor 

HOOVER – Cole Edwards and Chapman Blevins both got the opportunity to play hero for the Spain Park Jaguars on Friday, April 28, in the biggest moments of the season to open the 2023 postseason.

Taking on No. 8 James Clemens in the opening round of the Class 7A playoffs, Edwards gave Spain Park a walk-off double in game one, driving home Blevins for a 6-5 win, while Blevins then drove home the only run of game two with an RBI double in the top of the seventh for a 1-0 win to complete the sweep.

The walk-off double for Edwards in the first game of the series marked an exciting finish to a thrilling back-and-forth battle.

Spain Park struck first in the opening game with two runs in the opening inning, but James Clemens responded with four in a row behind two each in the third and fourth innings.

Trailing 4-2, the Jaguars quickly responded in the home half of the fourth with three runs to make it 5-4.

The Jets, however, added a clutch run in the top of the sixth to even the score at 5-5.

But after the next two half innings went by scoreless, Spain Park stepped back to the plate in the bottom of the seventh looking to end it.

The inning started with a fly out, a single and a strikeout, to put one aboard with two outs. Another single from Wesley Blackmon put two on base, while a hit batter loaded the bases.

With two outs still on the board, Edwards stepped to the plate with the opportunity to win it. That opportunity got even better when the first pitch was a ball, setting him up to look for his pitch on the second pitch of the at bat.

He lined the ball to center field, driving home Blevins for the game-winning hit in a 6-5 walk-off win.

Edwards finished with two hits and one RBI, while Matthew Widra led the team in the win with two hits and two RBIs. Clay Spencer added two RBIs, while Jacob Tobias, Blevins, Aiden Berke and Blackmon all finished with one hit.

Lucas Thornton got the start on the mound and struck out four in four innings, allowing two earned runs, four total runs, four hits and six walks. James Battersby followed him and gave up three hits, a run and a walk with one strikeout, while Evan Smallwood got the final four outs without giving up a hit, run or walk to preserve the tight win.

Game two didn’t have as much action throughout as the opening game, but that was more than made up for with the finish.

After the two battled to a 0-0 tie through six innings, Widra was able to give Spain Park a spark in the top of the seventh with a leadoff double.

A strikeout followed, but Blevins then stepped to the plate as a pinch hitter. Similar to game one, Blevins found himself in a 1-0 count, which he took advantage of by lining a double to left field to bring Widra home for what became the game-winning run.

Christopher Gross was just as big of a key in the victory, putting together a complete-game shutout on the mound. Gross struck out seven and gave up no runs on five hits and one walk to allow Blevins the chance to end the game with his seventh-inning double.

Widra again led the way with two hits at the plate, while Blevins finished 1-for-1 with the lone RBI. Smallwood, Tobias and Ryan Cole all had one hit in the win.

Spain Park will now play Vestavia Hills or Sparkman in round two of the playoffs looking for a spot in the semifinals.