Spain Park goes 5-1 against tough competition at Buccaneer Classic

Published 12:08 pm Monday, April 1, 2024

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

HOOVER – The Spain Park Jaguars kept themselves plenty busy during spring break as they played six games in four days at the Buccaneer Classic from March 27-30 in their hometown of Hoover, but they made the most of their packed schedule and walked away with five victories.

In their final games before the start of area play, the Jags took down Ohio’s Olentangy Orange Pioneers, the Prattville Lions, the Middle Tennessee Christian Cougars, and Illinois’ Palatine Pirates and O’Fallon Panthers.

Spain Park kicked off the tournament on Wednesday with a win over Olentangy Orange.

After a scoreless first inning for both teams, the Pioneers turned a lead-off single in the top of the second into a two-out RBI double to go up 1-0.

However, the Jags loaded up the bases on the first three batters of the bottom half of the frame thanks to a James Battersby single that came in between two walks.

While Spain Park couldn’t score while advancing to home on the next batter, a bases-loaded walk on a 3-2 pitch plated the tying run.

The Jags were gifted with another scoring opportunity in the bottom of the fourth after they turned a hit by pitch and a walk into two runs thanks to an error off an Arnold Bush bunt.

Olentangy Orange drew within one in the top of the fifth with an RBI single that followed a double, but that would be its last run of the game.

After a Rhys Jones double and Matthew Widra walk to start the bottom of the fifth, Coleman Gray hit an RBI single to score Jones from third and put runners on the corners.

Battersby then walked to load up the bases for Chapman Blevins, and the senior hit an RBI double that bring both Widra and the courtesy runner Andrew Thornton home.

Two batters later, a bases-loaded RBI ground out by Bush scored the final run of the game and secured the 7-2 win.

Christopher Gross took the win with five strikeouts in six innings against two runs, eight hits and no walks.

Later that day, Spain Park took on fellow Alabama 7A side Prattville and fought out a one-run battle.

The first two innings were a pitcher’s duel, but the Jags found an opening off a lead-off double by Aiden Berke in the top of the third. A pair of fly outs followed that brought Berke home and gave them a 1-0 lead.

However, a Lions RBI double and RBI single in the bottom of the frame put them up 2-1 at the end of the inning.

Spain Park responded in the top of the fourth with a two-out RBI double by Bush to tie the game at 2-2, and it retook the lead in the following inning thanks to an RBI ground out that Battersby hit into.

That 3-2 advantage held until the bottom of the seventh when Prattville made the most of its final chance at plate. It led off the inning with back-to-back singles before a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly led to the tying run.

The teams went into extra innings tied at 3-3, and after nobody reached base in the eighth inning, the Jags found an opening in the top of the ninth.

Gray was hit by a pitch with one out in the inning, and he slowly but surely advanced to home off a wild pitch, fly out and another wild pitch to give Spain Park the 4-3 lead for good.

Bush and Blevins each had two-hit games with Bush going 2-3 with an RBI and Blevins finishing 2-4 with a run.

Payton Wood earned the win with perfect innings in both the eighth and ninth. Jackson Bradley had six strikeouts in five innings but didn’t factor into the decision.

The next day, the Jags plated 10 runs in a win over Middle Tennessee Christian at Hoover High School.

Spain Park quickly got to work in the bottom of the first as a lead-off walk by Berke turned into the first run of the game thanks to a Jones RBI triple. Widra then doubled the lead with an RBI ground out.

With runners on first and second thanks to a hit by pitch and a walk, Jacob Byrd came home off an error by the Cougars shortstop and Sam Waldrop followed that with an RBI single to increase the lead to 4-0.

That lead quickly became 6-0 in the bottom of the second inning after three straight walks turned into a Battersby RBI double.

Middle Tennessee Christian clawed back a pair of runs in the top of the third after a two-out error followed by an RBI double.

That 6-2 score line held through the next two innings before scoring hits by Richard Moon, Jones, Widra and Battersby in the bottom of the fifth took the lead to 10-2.

While the Cougars got a run back in the bottom of the seventh off a one-out RBI double, the Jags took the next two outs to close the 10-3 win.

Battersby went 2-4 at the plate with three runs and Jones had a 2-3 day with a walk, three runs and two RBIs.

Blake Patrick earned the win with six innings without allowing an earned run, ending the game with six hits, a walk, two unearned runs and a pair of strikeouts.

Spain Park returned to Hoover High on Friday with a one-run win over Platine.

The Jags scored the first run of the game after a one-out triple by Jones in the bottom of the first turned into a run off a sacrifice fly.

The Pirates loaded up the bases in the top of the third off an error and a pair of singles, and then they brought one of those runners home off a sacrifice fly and two more thanks to an error.

Those would be the only three runs Palatine scored all game as that 3-1 lead became 3-2 off a passed ball with one out in the bottom of the third.

Two innings later, Spain Park capitalized off another Pirates miscue and scored a run thanks to a catcher error to tie the game at 3-3.

The score remained tied after the seventh inning, but after Blevins and Byrd hit singles in the bottom of the eighth, Bradley hit a walk-off single on the first pitch he saw to take the 4-3 win.

Connor Langston earned the win with three shutout innings of relief, allowing just two hits in the process. Moon had five strikeouts in the first five innings.

While the Jags finished the day with a 6-3 loss to Florence, they returned on Saturday to finish the tournament with a 12-run win over O’Fallon.

Spain Park struck first with a run off a ground out in the top of the first inning.

The Jags sprinted ahead to a 7-0 lead in the following inning thanks to a Bush RBI single, Berke two-run single, Widra two-run double and a run off a fielder’s choice that Blevins hit into.

The Panthers got on the scoreboard with an RBI double in the bottom of the second, but Spain Park loaded up the bases once again in the top of the third off back-to-back walks and a Bush single.

Berke and Jones restarted the scoring with a pair of RBI singles and Widra took the lead to 12 with a grand slam.

O’Fallon then scored four straight runs in the third and fourth innings, but it surrendered four walks in five batters followed by a balk in the top of the fifth, scoring two more runs and making the score 15-5.

The Panthers plated two runs off an error in the bottom of the sixth. However, Spain Park restored its 10-run lead in the top of the sixth with a Widra RBI triple and Gray RBI ground out.

O’Fallon once again narrowly avoided the run-rule in the bottom of the sixth when it scored a run off a line out with the bases loaded, making the score 17-8.

The Jags then hit 20 runs on the day in the seventh inning off a Byrd RBI single as well as a bases-loaded walk and hit by pitch to secure the 20-8 win.

Widra led the offense with seven RBIs and three runs while hitting 3-4 with two walks. Jones had five runs in the game as he went 3-5 with an RBI and two walks.

Spain Park will start area play with a series against Oak Mountain. The first game will come on Tuesday, April 2 at 5 p.m. at Oak Mountain High School and the series will finish up on Thursday, April 4 at 5 p.m. back at Spain Park High School.