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Blue Eagles fall to Clarke County, Hillcrest

By By SCOTT COOPER – Sports Writer
Having been eliminated from Class 3A postseason competition as they entered the past week's play, the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles continued to experience difficulties by dropping consecutive decisions. A loss at home to the Clarke County Bulldogs was followed by another loss on the road to the Hillcrest Jaguars.
As they prepare to enter the final week of competition, the Blue Eagles' season record stands at 11-11.
Clarke County 8, Blue Eagles 2
An April 15 contest against the Clarke County Bulldogs at Blue Eagles Field saw the visitors climb on top early and coast to a relatively easy victory.
Neither team was able to get on the scoreboard in the first inning, but then the Bulldogs inflicted all the damage that was needed for victory in the top of the second. Four Clarke County hits couple with four Neal errors led to six runs and spelled trouble for the Blue Eagles by placing them behind, 6-0.
The Bulldogs added another run in the top of the fourth on one hit and a Blue Eagle error before Neal cut the deficit to 7-1 with a lone run in the fifth.
In the top of the seventh, Clarke County added a bit of insurance by moving a baserunner across the plate for an 8-1 advantage.
Neal received consecutive base hits from Keith Woods and Jeffrey Coleman in the bottom half of the seventh. Woods then came home following two straight passed balls to make the score 8-2. However, that was as close as the Blue Eagles would get as Clarke County closed out the win.
Offensive leaders for Neal were Jeffrey Coleman, 2-for-3 and Paul Crabtree, 1-for-2.
Hillcrest 8, Blue Eagles 6
Neal hit the road on April 16 seeking a win against the Class 4A Hillcrest Jaguars. But, a Blue Eagle first inning lead quickly evaporated and the Jaguars controlled the action for much of the game while sending Neal home with a loss.
Things looked good for the Blue Eagles in the top for the first inning. With two outs, Paul Crabtree reached on a single before Jared Cooper stepped to the plate and blasted a two-run homer that lifted Neal on top, 2-0.
The Jaguars quickly responded with two runs in the bottom of the first that tied the game at 2-2 before asserting themselves with three more second-inning runs for a 5-2 advantage.
In the top of the fourth, Neal scored on an error and a Derek Smith sacrifice fly to pull within a run at 5-4, but Hillcrest answered with three runs in the bottom of the inning to pull further ahead, 8-4.
Needing a big inning as they came to bat in the top of the seventh, the Blue Eagles mounted a rally that fell short. A Cory Freeman single was followed by an RBI double by Crabtree that cut the Jaguar lead down to 8-5. Then, Cooper came through with an RBI single that edged Neal closer at 8-6. The rally ended at that point, however, and the Blue Eagles exited with their second loss in as many days.
Leaders at the plate for Neal were Jared Cooper, 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs and Paul Crabtree, 3-for-4 with one RBI.