Shelby County wins 2 straight over Sylacauga to claim area title

Published 9:05 am Tuesday, April 30, 2024

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SYLACAUGA – Dropping a one-run game against Sylacauga early on Monday, April 29, the Shelby County Wildcats faced a long road ahead toward finding an area championship.

The Wildcats, however, never backed down, storming out of the loser’s bracket with a 12-2 win over Jemison before using the one-run loss earlier in the day to fuel their run to the Class 5A, Area 7 Championship with back-to-back tight wins over the Aggies to end a marathon tournament.

Shelby County’s 4-1 record at the area tournament looked easy on the surface, but featured a hard-working day that started that morning and lasted until near midnight.

The Wildcats took the opening game of the tournament with ease in a 10-3 showing against Jemison 10-3, but dropped a 14-13 heartbreaker to Sylacauga in game two.

That forced Shelby County into the loser’s bracket, but the Wildcats staved off elimination with another dominant win of 12-2 against the Panthers to cement a spot at regionals next week and earn a chance at winning the area championship.

Needing two wins over the Aggies to claim this year’s title, the Wildcats got the first of those wins in a 10-inning thriller that featured a combined 24 runs and 29 hits.

Shelby County took early control in the game with seven runs in the first two innings to take a quick 7-1 advantage, but Sylacauga answered quickly with nine unanswered over the next two innings to take a 10-7 lead.

The back-and-forth battle continued with the Wildcats using a four-run top of the fifth to storm back in front by one run.

It looked like that would be enough to force a decisive second game, but down to their final out, the Aggies blasted a home run over the wall in center field to even the score at 11-11 and force extra innings.

The eighth and ninth innings went by scoreless, but Shelby County struck with two big runs in the top of the 10th.

The Wildcats put the first three batters on base safely thanks to an error on a grounder from Faith Owens and back-to-back singles from Gracie Nicewonder and Catelynn Davis. A Caitlan Bland sac fly drove home one run, while Kaydence Connell added another sac fly to bring home another run and make it 13-11.

Emery Glaze then finished off a strong six inning stretch by putting together a third scoreless inning in a row in the circle to polish off the win and force a second game to determine the area champ.

Nicewonder finished the game 3-for-5 at the plate with a home run, four RBIs and three runs scored to lead the Wildcats. Connell added three RBIs and two runs scored on two hits, while Kloe Gallups finished with two hits and two RBIs.

Shelby County also got two hits and an RBI from Glaze, while Aaliyah Chaisson and Davis each finished with two hits as well. Bland added one hit and one RBI.

Glaze finished the final six innings of the game, allowing one run on four hits with four strikeouts.

That set up the final game of an exhausting day between the two with the area title at stake.

Early, it looked like we might get a lower-scoring battle, but that quickly changed in the top of the third.

After one run apiece in the first and a scoreless second inning, the Wildcats erupted for eight runs in the top of the third.

Sylacauga could only find one run in response in the bottom half, while the Wildcats added one more in the fourth and took a 10-2 lead into the bottom of the fifth.

The Aggies then put together their strongest inning of the game as they looked for a comeback, scoring seven in the home half of the fifth to trim the deficit to one run.

Shelby County, however, responded with an area-championship clinching inning in the top of the sixth.

The Wildcats scored seven runs in the inning to take a 17-9 advantage.

Sylacauga did respond with two in the sixth and added two more in the seventh, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the large deficit, as the Wildcats picked up a 17-13 win in a game that featured 36 hits.

This time, it was Chaisson who led the way with a 3-for-5 game featuring four RBIs and two runs scored. Bland and Connell both finished with three hits, including a home run for each, as well as three RBIs and three runs scored.

Gallups added two hits and three RBIs, while Owens finished with two hits and two RBIs. In the circle, Glaze put together the complete-game win.

Shelby County will now head to regionals at Lagoon Park in Montgomery, which is scheduled to start Tuesday, May 7.