Shelby County opens season with 3-0 weekend at Hank Aaron Classic

Published 8:36 am Tuesday, February 20, 2024

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

MOBILE – The Shelby County Wildcats are off to a strong start to the season after going 3-0 in the Hank Aaron Classic in Mobile.

The Wildcats defeated UMS-Wright, Alma Bryant and McGill-Toolen to go undefeated on the weekend.

Shelby County started the tournament with a run-rule win over the UMS-Wright Bulldogs on Friday, Feb. 17.

After Gannon Pharr earned a leadoff walk to start the game, the Wildcats survived the next two outs to earn an RBI double off Cooper Pennington to bust the game open.

Nathan Owen followed that up with a line drive single before he crossed home plate on a passed ball to extend the lead to 3-0.

Shelby County got a one-two-three inning in the bottom of the first and started the second inning with a walk and a single. Pharr then reached off a bunt thanks to an error by the Bulldogs to score another run before an RBI groundout took the lead to 5-0.

In the top of the third with two runners on and one out, Christian Reed and Cale Blevins both scored off an error by the UMS-Wright third baseman to increase the lead to 7-0.

After the Wildcats went down to two outs in the top of the fourth, they loaded the bases on two walks and a hit by pitch. Ethan Hall then hit a sacrifice fly to extend the lead to 8-0 to end the inning.

The Bulldogs got on the board in the bottom of the fourth with an RBI groundout to cut the gap to 8-1.

Shelby County responded in the top of the fifth inning with a leadoff single and error that led to a one-out RBI single by Pharr to go up 10-1.

With the Wildcats needing one more run to trigger the run-rule, Samuel Carter hit a leadoff double in the top of the sixth to get a runner in scoring position. Pennington then hit an RBI triple to make the lead 10, and then Owen had an RBI groundout to make the score 12-1.

While UMS-Wright scored a run in the bottom of the inning with no outs, Shelby County earned the final three outs to secure the victory.

The next day, the Wildcats prevailed in a one-run battle with the Bryant Hurricanes.

After a leadoff walk in the bottom of the first inning, Pharr came home off a wild pitch, steal and RBI groundout to get Shelby County on the board.

The Hurricanes took the lead in the top of the second with three walks and an RBI single to go up 2-1.

That score remained until the bottom of the fourth with two outs when Carter took advantage of back-to-back walks to score both runners off an RBI single, which gave the Wildcats a 3-2 lead.

The fifth and sixth innings came and went without a run, but the top of the seventh brought a scoring opportunity for Bryant.

The Hurricanes hit a double and reached on a walk in the first two batters, and then they scored on a home plate steal to tie the game at 3-3.

Shelby County couldn’t answer in the bottom of the inning and the game went to the eighth inning.

After both teams couldn’t earn a hit in the eighth inning, Carter hit a double as the first batter in the bottom of the ninth to set up Pennington for a walk-off single right afterwards and earn the 4-3 win.

The Wildcats went straight into another extra-inning thriller against McGill-Toolen in the final game of the tournament.

The two teams went scoreless in the first two innings, but the Yellow Jackets scored in the bottom of the third off an RBI single to go up 1-0.

Shelby County then took advantage of McGill miscues to take the lead in the top of the fourth. The Jackets hit Micah Morris with a pitch and walked Blevins to set up a wild one-out sequence.

Morris stole third and then later scored on an error by the McGill first baseman, and then two pitches later, Blevins scored on a wild pitch to put his team up 2-1.

The Jackets took the lead right back in the bottom of the fourth with a dominant five-run inning which included a pair of two-run singles and an RBI double.

Now facing a 6-2 deficit in the top of the sixth, Morris scored off another wild pitch, this time with two outs, to cut the gap to three.

After getting out of the bottom of the sixth without allowing any runs, five straight runners reached base for Shelby County and led to three runs with no outs on the board, and more importantly, the score tied at 6-6.

On the next batter, two runners scored on a passed ball to give the Wildcats an 8-6 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh.

However, McGill scored in the bottom of the inning off a passed ball and a sacrifice fly to tie the score at 8-8 and force extra innings.

The Jackets surrendered a walk in the top of the eighth and let Carter hit a double to right field two batters later to score Pharr and go up 9-8.

Shelby County then finished the job with a one-two-three inning in the bottom of the eighth and earn the extra innings win.