Brewton 14s pick bad time for hitting slump
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
Major league baseball teams will go into several hitting slumps over the course of a season. Then again, they have the luxury of a 162-game campaign to correct their problems.
The Brewton Babe Ruth 14-year-old all-stars did not have that luxury. Two off games at the plate ended Brewton's bid for a state berth, as they fell to Andalusia 6-1 in Monday's Area Tournament semifinal round at Atmore.
Brewton scored 47 runs in its first four games of district and area tournament action, but just two runs in their last two games (both losses).
"I don't care what level you're playing. You're just not going to win many games when you only score one run. Unfortunately we don't have a 162-game schedule like they do in the major leagues to come out of a hitting slump. Two bad games and you're done," Brewton coach John Nelson said. "I thought in the Opp game Saturday (a 4-1 loss) we still got pretty good swings at the plate, but in this game we didn't get a lot of good looks."
One bad inning cost Brewton Monday's rematch against Andalusia, a team it defeated 8-7 in Friday's opening round.
The first seven Andalusia batters in the bottom of the first inning all reached safely. Perhaps the tone for the night was set when the first of those batters, Jeffery Etheridge, hit a groundball that was misplayed for an error.
Then came a single by Nic Cooper, an RBI single by Taylor Culbreth, a two-run single by Joe Kyser, singles by James Hogg and Brannon Bryan and a two-run single by Taylor Wrench. Just like that it was 5-0. Before the inning was over, Etheridge blooped a single over Brewton pitcher James Hamric that got another run in to make it 6-0.
As bad as things went for Hamric in that first inning, he quickly reversed his personal fortunes. After the first inning Hamric allowed just three hits, two of them infield, and struck out six.
"James was outstanding after the first inning. That was probably the biggest positive for us. The game could have really gotten ugly, but he settled down and threw really well. Unfortunately one bad inning cost us," Nelson said.
Meanwhile Brewton was unable to get anything going on the offensive end against first Etheridge and later Culbreth.
Brewton managed just four hits and just two through the first four innings. Brewton scored its only run in the top of the fifth inning when Hamric reached on an error, stole second, went to third on a passed ball and scored on an infield single by Bobby Freeman.
Brewton was knocked into the elimination bracket Saturday when it fell to Opp 4-1.
Brewton's lowest run output of the tournament wasted a strong pitching performance by James Freeman, who allowed just five hits and two walks to go along with two strikeouts.
Opp pitcher Mark Linton was also up to the challenge, as he allowed just six hits and a walk.
"It was probably our best pitched game at both the district tournament and here," Brewton coach John Nelson said. "Their pitcher also threw a great game. We couldn't get the big hits when we needed them and they did."
Besides timely hits, the other decisive factor was probably baserunning. Opp stole seven bases, as compared to only two for Brewton. Brewton also lost two runners at the plate.
The running game helped set up each of Opp's first two runs. In the second inning, Aaron Jacobs walked, stole second and third and scored on a single by Cody Hall.
In the third inning, Opp's Jeb McDaniel reached on a fielder's choice, stole second and scored on a single by Linton that made it 2-0.
Opp doubled that lead to 4-0 in the fifth inning when Andrew Nevels beat out an infield single, stole second and third, Kyser walked, McDaniel hit an RBI double and Linton hit a sacrifice fly.
Brewton had just three hits against Linton until the top of the sixth inning when four successive hits put the team in business.
Will Waters started the rally with a double and Jake Smith doubled him home to get Brewton the board. Bobby Freeman and Aaron Nelson both beat out infield singles to load the bases with nobody out.
The inning soon ended in disaster. Smith was forced out at the plate on a groundball to third base by Chris Griffin. The key play though was when Tyler Brown lined a shot to Kyser at second base, who then caught Nelson off first base for a double play.
Brewton still had a chance in the seventh inning. Matt Hamric reached on an error and stole second. James Freeman singled into centerfield, but Hamric was thrown out on a close play at the plate. Waters then popped up to end the game.
"Maybe we should have stopped James at third base on that hit, but I didn't think there was any way they would get him with the speed James had. I didn't even think there would be a play. That play and the line drive double play in the sixth inning more or less summed up our day," Nelson said.
Brewton 000 001 0 – 1 8 1
Opp 011 020 X – 4 5 1
Brewton 000 010 0 – 1 4 3
Andalusia 600 000 X – 6 10 1