Neal defeats Devils, 'Canes for second place in tourney
By By SCOTT COOPER – Sports Writer
After falling to the T.R. Miller Tigers in the opening round of the Escambia County Tournament, the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles regrouped to finish the competition in style. A second round win over the tournament-hosting Escambia County Blue Devils was followed with a third round victory over the Flomaton Hurricanes.
With the two wins, the Blue Eagles earned a second place finish in the tournament and raised their season record to 13-12.
Blue Eagles 12, Escambia County 7
An April 18 game between the Blue Eagles and the Escambia County Blue Devils seesawed back and forth for eight innings before Neal gained the win with an impressive ninth-inning offensive surge.
The Blue Devils held a 2-0 lead at the end of two innings, but then the Blue Eagles struck with a big rally in the top of the third that placed them in the lead.
With two runners on base, Spencer Williamson stepped to the plate and brought both home with a double that tied the score at 2-2. After a Blue Devil error, a double by Jeffrey Coleman accounted for two more runs and a 4-2 Neal advantage. Coleman later scored on an error to pad the Blue Eagle cushion to 5-2.
The Neal lead remained intact until Escambia County came to bat in the bottom of the fourth. Taking advantage of six walks and three base hits, the Blue Devils proceeded to score five runs while regaining the lead, 7-5.
Following a scoreless fifth inning, the Blue Eagles deadlocked the game in the top of the sixth. Following a walk drawn by Brad Jerkins, Jared Cooper came through with a two-out single to keep the rally going. Paul Crabtree then drove Jerkins home with a base hit before Cooper came home on a passed ball to tie the game, 7-7.
Both the seventh and eighth innings were dominated by the opposing defenses, sending the game into the ninth with the teams still knotted at 7-7.
The Blue Eagles, however, took matters into their own hands by swinging the bats with authority in the top of the ninth. Cory Freeman's two-RBI single was followed by a Daniel Hodge RBI double that placed the Blue Eagles out front, 10-7. After Crabtree kept the rally going with a single, Williamson put the finishing touches on the inning with a two-RBI base hit that pushed Neal's lead to 12-7.
After the first Blue Devil reached on an error in the bottom of the ninth, Patrick Sorrells delivered a double-play ground ball before preserving the Blue Eagle win by retiring the last Escambia County batter on a pop-up.
Sorrells earned the win in a relief role, giving-up only one hit and striking-out four over four innings.
Offensive leaders for the Blue Eagles were Paul Crabtree, 3-for-4 with one RBI; Spencer Williamson, 3-for-5 with two RBIs and Jared Cooper, 2-for-6 with four RBIs.
Blue Eagles 4, Flomaton 2
In an April 19 third round matchup against the Flomaton Hurricanes, the Blue Eagles received an outstanding performance from the mound by Chad McCall in a come-from-behind win that clinched the runner-up spot in the tournament.
While McCall was handcuffing the Hurricane batters through five innings, Neal failed to capitalize on several scoring opportunities that could have provided an early lead.
In the bottom of the first inning, the Blue Eagles had baserunners on both second and third basses with only one out, but could not produce the key hit needed to move a run home. Then, a bottom of the fourth inning rally saw runners on first and third basses with one out only to stall without a score.
As the teams entered the sixth inning, the game was deadlocked at 0-0. A two-RBI hit by Flomaton's Justin White, however, broke the ice and gave the Hurricanes a 2-0 lead.
Neal came right back and answered in the bottom half of the sixth. After singles by Cory Freeman and Paul Crabtree, a Spencer Williamson single drove one run home. Following a walk drawn by Patrick Sorrells, Keith Woods delivered a clutch two-RBI single that allowed three runs to cross the plate after a Flomaton error in the outfield.
As the Hurricanes came to bat in the top of the seventh, the Blue Eagles needed to step up defensively to maintain their 4-2 lead. Following a walk, McCall delivered three consecutive fly-ball pitches for outs that put the wraps on a Neal victory.
McCall allowed five hits and struck-out four over seven innings while notching the win.
Pacing the Neal offense were Cory Freeman, 3-for-3; Keith Woods, 1-for-2 with two RBIs and Spencer Williamson, 1-for-3 with one RBI.