Shelby County clinches area title with sweep over Sylacauga

Published 10:27 pm Friday, April 5, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

The Shelby County Wildcats continued their dominant run through area play as they cruised to a pair of big wins over the Sylacauga Aggies.

Their 14-4 run-rule win in Columbiana on Wednesday, April 3 and 7-2 victory in Sylacauga on Friday, April 5 clinched a series sweep and the area championship for the Wildcats.

After a scoreless first inning in the first game, a Gannon Pharr single, Davis Ruston walk and Nathan Owen single loaded up the bases with no outs, and Micah Morris hit into a fielder’s choice to score Shelby County’s first run of the game.

A sacrifice bunt on the next pitch by Cale Blevins gave the Wildcats another run to extend the lead to 2-0.

However, Sylacauga rallied in the top of the third off four straight scoring plays: an RBI single, passed ball, error and a sacrifice fly to take a 4-2 lead.

With the bases loaded in the bottom of the third and two outs, Morris singled on a pop fly to tie the game at 4-4.

While the Wildcats couldn’t take the lead in the third, they quickly went up in the bottom of the fourth as Ben Gann hit a solo home run on the third pitch of the half inning, giving Shelby County the 5-4 lead.

That was just the start of a massive 10-run inning for the Wildcats.

Three straight singles by Samuel Carter, Colby Matherson and Cooper Pennington loaded up the bases, and Pharr hit into a fielder’s choice to add another run.

A passed ball during Ruston’s at-bat extended the lead to four, and then Ruston hit an RBI single for the eighth run of the game and fourth of the inning.

A walk put runners on first and second, but the Aggies got an out off a fielder’s choice to leave runners on the corners. However, Presley Duke scored from third after the Sylacauga pitcher was called for a balk.

The Aggies implosion continued as another balk scored a run, a hit by pitch loaded the bases and a passed ball made the score 11-1.

Sylacauga then hit another batter to load the bases, and Pennington quickly cleared them with a three-run double to put the Wildcats up 14-4. That sealed the run-rule win after the Aggies went scoreless in the top of the fifth.

Morris and Pennington each finished the game with three RBIs as Morris finished 1-for-3 with a run and Pennington went 2-for-4 with a run.

Matherson took the win with two shutout innings of relief, taking two strikeouts while allowing just two hits and no walks.

In game two on Friday, Shelby County took advantage of a one-out walk in the top of the first to take a 1-0 lead off an RBI double by Pennington.

The Wildcats got another early walk in the top of the second, and after advancing Owen to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Morris, Blevins doubled the lead with an RBI single.

While the Aggies struck out the next batter, they hit Carter with the next pitch to set up Matherson to hit an RBI single and make the lead 3-0.

Neither team gave much over the next two innings. However, in the top of the fifth, Pharr launched a solo home run to right to extend the lead to four.

The Wildcats got a lead-off walk in the top of the sixth, and they were smart in moving Blevins along the base paths with a sacrifice bunt, stolen base and a Carter sacrifice fly, and he scored off the sacrifice fly and put his team up 5-0.

Afterwards, a Matherson single followed by a walk and a hit by pitch loaded up the bases for Ruston. He then hit an RBI single for the sixth run of the game.

Sylacauga finally got on the scoreboard with a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the sixth, but Shelby County got a run back in the top of the seventh thanks to an Aggies error.

Down to their last out, Sylacauga scored once more off an RBI double but couldn’t keep the rally going beyond that as the Wildcats claimed the 7-2 win for the area title.

Owen went the distance for the complete-game win as he earned three strikeouts against one earned run, two total runs, five hits and four walks.

Shelby County will have a quick turnaround for a home doubleheader against Wetumpka on Saturday, April 6 at noon and 2:30 p.m.