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Blue Eagles earn win over Rocky Bayou

By By SCOTT COOPER – Sports Writer
As the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles traveled to Niceville, Fla. for a March 21 matchup against Rocky Bayou High School, they were coming off a win that had put the brakes on a three-game losing streak and looked to keep the positive momentum in motion.
Through two innings, however, it appeared the Blue Eagles might be in for a long day as Rocky Bayou took advantage of Neal errors and timely hitting to build a 3-0 lead. But, the Blue Eagles refused to give in to their slow start and got things going on the offensive end in the fourth inning to overtake the lead. Although Rocky Bayou struck back and forced Neal to continue fighting to the end, the Blue Eagles answered each threat with a rally that proved to be enough to secure the victory that improved their season record to 6-3.
After Neal was held scoreless in the top of the first inning, Rocky Bayou gained an early advantage by moving two runners across the plate in the bottom half of the inning. A Blue Eagle error was followed by a base hit that moved one runner into scoring position. Then, two fielder's choice hits that followed were responsible for putting Neal behind by a 2-0 margin as the two teams headed to the second inning.
The Blue Eagles failed to produce anything offensively in the top half of the second before the hosts came to bat in their half of the inning. After reaching on a Neal error, a Rocky Bayou baserunner stole second base before coming home on a fielder's choice that pushed the advantage to 3-0.
Realizing they needed some offensive production to remain in the game, the Blue Eagles responded in the top of the fourth in a big way. Paul Crabtree led the inning off with a triple and then moved across home plate after Brad Jerkins, Jared Cooper and Chad McCall each drew walks. A walk drawn by Jeffrey Coleman allowed Jerkins to score and reduced the deficit to 3-2. Then, Derek Smith stepped to the plate and delivered a two-RBI single that moved Cooper and McCall home while placing Neal out front, 4-3.
Showing their intentions of forcing the Blue Eagles to return home on the short end of a decision, Rocky Bayou came back with two runs in the fifth inning to regain the lead at 5-4.
Unfazed by the Rocky Bayou resurgence, Neal answered in the top of the sixth with an offensive assault that allowed them to seize command of the game. After Cory Freeman's double began the rally, Jerkins walked to place runners on first and second bases. Cooper followed with a single that scored Freeman, and then McCall delivered a double that moved both Jerkins and Cooper across the plate for an 8-5 Blue Eagle lead.
Neal starting pitcher Patrick Sorrells silenced the Rocky Bayou bats in the bottom half of the sixth before the Neal offense padded the Blue Eagle cushion in the top of the seventh.
After a Freeman walk was followed by a Daniel Hodge single, Freeman crossed home plate courtesy of a Rocky Bayou error. Hodge then scored on a Crabtree sacrifice fly, giving the Blue Eagles a bit more insurance with a 10-5 lead as Rocky Bayou came to bat in the bottom of the seventh and final inning.
With one out and a runner in scoring position, Rocky Bayou manufactured a run on a sacrifice fly to cut the Neal lead to 10-6. Sorrells then proceeded to strikeout the next batter for the third out to put the finishing touches on the Blue Eagle win.
Sorrells went the distance in earning the victory, allowing six hits and recording four strikeouts while raising his season record to 2-1.
Leading the Neal offense were Cory Freeman, 1-for-2 with two RBIs; Chad McCall, 1-for-2 with one RBI and Jared Cooper, 1-for-2 with one RBI.