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Blue Eagles hit slump with fifth straight loss

By By SCOTT COOPER - Sports Writer
With losses in their last two outings, the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles' baseball fortunes continue to be stymied by an inability to get over the hump in close games. The Blue Eagles' recent play has been marked by contests in which they either hold the lead or are tied entering the latter stages of games only to be overtaken down the stretch.
Neal's record currently is 8-8 on the season and 0-2 against Area-1 competition.
Clarke County 9, Neal 8
Grove Hill was the setting for a March 1 Area-1 meeting between the Blue Eagles and the Clarke County Bulldogs.
Neal entered the matchup having dropped three straight games by close margins and looked to reverse the recent trend with a win. However, the Blue Eagles' frustrations of late continued as Clarke County came from behind to snatch a victory in extra innings.
Neal got on the scoreboard first with a run in the top of the first inning. Daniel Hodge singled to begin a rally before Nick Benjamin and Jared Cooper walked to load the bases. A passed ball then allowed Benjamin to cross the plate later in the inning for a 1-0 Blue Eagle lead.
Clarke County evened the score with a run in the bottom of the first, and then took advantage of walks and passed balls to add two more runs in the bottom of the second for a 3-1 advantage.
In the top of the fourth, a clutch hit delivered by Cooper allowed the Blue Eagles to pull even. Following three consecutive walks that loaded the bases, Cooper came through with a single to right field that placed the two teams into a 3-3 deadlock.
The Bulldogs edged ahead with a run in the bottom half of the fourth before Neal's offense went to work in the top of the fifth.
Cody Anthony's single was followed by a Chad McCall walk. Two runs then crossed the plate courtesy of a Bulldogs' throwing error on Brad Jerkins' sacrifice bunt. After a single by Patrick Sorrells, Hodge kept the rally going with a two-RBI double before Paul Crabtree's single drove in another run and lifted the Blue Eagles to an 8-4 lead.
While the Neal batters were being held in check over the course of the next couple of innings, the Bulldogs' offense produced one run in the fifth and three more in the sixth to tie the game at 8-8.
After neither team was able to manufacture anything on the offensive end in the seventh, the game was extended for an extra inning.
Following the Blue Eagles' top of the eighth in which they failed to score, Clarke County came through with an RBI base hit in the bottom half of the inning to secure the victory and send Neal home on the short end of a 9-8 decision.
Leading batters for the Blue Eagles were Patrick Sorrells, 3-for-4; Daniel Hodge, 2-for-3 with two RBIs; Cody Anthony, 2-for-3 and Paul Crabtree, 2-for-5 with one RBI.
Flomaton 6, Neal 1
In a March 3 meeting at home against the Flomaton Hurricanes, the Blue Eagles once again hung tough for most of the game before the Hurricanes gained the victory with a final-inning offensive explosion.
The two opposing starting pitchers, Neal's Patrick Sorrells and Flomaton's Justin White, kept the offenses virtually in check throughout the first six innings with excellent performances from the mound.
After a scoreless first two innings, the Blue Eagles gained the lead in the bottom of the third. Chad McCall reached on a walk before Justin Smith doubled down the third base line to bring McCall home and put Neal at a 1-0 advantage.
The Hurricanes answered in the top of the fourth inning. With a Flomaton runner at second base, Luke Himes stepped to the plate and lined an RBI double to left field that deadlocked the game, 1-1.
After Sorrells and White reassumed complete control from the mound in the fifth and sixth innings, the score remained tied as Flomaton came to bat in the top of the seventh.
Six Flomaton hits led to five runs in the inning which placed the Hurricanes squarely in the driver's seat with a 6-1 lead.
The Blue Eagles mounted a bit of a rally in the bottom of the seventh by loading the bases with two outs. But, White struck-out the final Blue Eagle batter to get out of the inning unscathed while preserving the 6-1 Flomaton win.
Leading the Blue Eagle offense were Justin Smith, 2-for-4 with one RBI and Paul Crabtree, 1-for-3.