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Off to state for Brewton 15s

By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
A second chance enabled the Brewton Babe Ruth 15-year-old all-stars the opportunity to win the district championship.
They made sure they would not need one at the Area Tournament at Atmore Tuesday when they held off Covington County 3-1 for the crown as well as a berth in this week's state tournament at Atalla.
"We had the safety net of having a second game if we had lost Tuesday, but I think it was vital we won it when we did. We've got a lot of tired pitching arms and we didn't want to have to come back for another game," Brewton coach Baxley Raines said.
The victory extended Brewton's winning streak to seven games along the tournament trail after it stumbled against Atmore in the opening round of district competition.
Mackie Jackson labored through five and one-third innings before Baxley Raines slammed the door shut with five consecutive strikeouts to end the game.
Jackson had some control problems throughout his stint, as he walked eight and issued at least one free pass in each inning. Jackson suffered minimal damage from those walks through eight strikeouts, just two hits allowed and a couple of big plays from his defense.
"Mackie threw a lot (120) of pitches, but he was a survivor," Raines said. "Baxley did a great job of closing things out, but we didn't want to use him in this game. We wanted to save him for Wednesday's game if we had to play. I guess since we won we made the right decision."
Covington County stranded 11 runners in the game, which included nine in the first four innings. That included four in the first two innings alone.
In the opening frame, Jackson walked three of the first four batters he faced, but he got out of that bases loaded situation when he struck out Devlin Maloy and Bobby Fleming.
Jackson needed his defense to bail him out of another one-out jam in the second inning. A walk, a wild pitch, a fielder's choice and an error on a flyball hit by Andrew Odom led to Covington County's first and only run of the game. It also left runners on second and third base.
Jonathan Griggs made a bid to add to that lead when he hit a flyball to Matt Hamric in leftfield. Josh Bulger tagged up from third base and tested Hamric's arm. It turned out to be a bad gamble, as Hamric threw a perfect strike to catcher Tanner Shehan. Shehan applied the tag and kept the deficit just 1-0.
"That was a key play in the game. They had a chance to open up the lead a little bit, but Matt came up with a great throw. He has really been playing some good defense for us lately," Raines said.
Covington County pitcher Sladen Wicker had a no-hitter going until the top of the fourth inning when Raines spoiled it with a leadoff single. Leftfielder Charles Gordon overran the ball for an error and that moved Raines into scoring position at second base. Raines then stole third base and scored the tying run on a single by Jared Cooper.
Courtesy runner Brandon Odom stole second, one of six stolen bases on the night for Brewton, and took third on a throwing error on the play. Jackson helped his own cause with an RBI groundout that plated Odom and put Brewton up 2-1.
Jackson also helped his cause with his glove in the bottom of the fourth inning. Covington County loaded the bases again with just one out through an infield error, a walk and a single.
Charles Gordon hit a short popup about halfway between home plate and the pitcher's mound. Jackson was unable to get the ball on the fly, but he dove and got the ball after a short hop and flipped it to Shehan for a forceout at the plate. Jackson then got Sam Bush to ground out to Raines at shortstop and Brewton had escaped another jam with the 2-1 lead still intact.
Brewton picked up a key insurance run in the top of the fifth inning. Kendall Land singled and Shehan reached on an error after a sacrifice bunt. Becker Denton flew out to centerfield, but it was deep enough for Land to advance to third base. That play became even more important one batter later when Raines flew out to deep centerfield, but it allowed Land to score and extend the lead to 3-1.
Jackson escaped another potentially tough situation in the bottom of the fifth inning. Devlin Maloy led off with a single and Wicker walked with one out. Then Jackson caught Maloy napping on a pickoff play at second base for the second out and Barnes grounded out to Cooper at first base for the third out.
Jackson's night on the mound ended with a one-out walk in the sixth inning, but Covington County was never even able to make contact against Raines over the final five batters. Raines' final strikeout against Bobby Fleming was the 13th for the Brewton pitching.
Brewton drew a first-round bye in the opening round of state tournament play. Its first
See CHAMPS Page 7
game will be Friday at 5 p.m. at the Attalla Sports Complex.
If Brewton wins its first contest, it will play again Saturday at 1 p.m. If Brewton loses Friday, it will drop into the elimination bracket where it will play again Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
At Atmore
Brewton 000 210 0 – 3 6 2
Covington Co. 010 000 0 – 1 2 4