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Eagles get back in Area, playoff chase

By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
He echoed the words of assistant coach Chuck Phillips.
The "it" Campbell and Phillips referred to was a victory in Class 3A Area 1 action. The Blue Eagles snapped their three-year drought Monday when they held off the Clarke County Bulldogs 5-4 at East Brewton.
Monday's win did more than just snap the Blue Eagles dry spell in Area 1. The win all of a sudden puts the Blue Eagles in a good position to finish in the top two Area spots and grab a spot in the state playoffs.
W.S. Neal (1-2 in Area 1 and 6-10 overall) can wrap up a playoff berth if it wins at Clarke County (in either the first game or the tiebreaker) on April 11 and at Straughn on April 19. Clarke County and Straughn are also 1-2 in Area play.
The Blue Eagles are still in a position where they can win the Area 1 championship if they beat Clarke County, Straughn and T.R. Miller plus the tiebreaker against T.R. Miller.
W.S. Neal survived a couple of errors in the field, 11 strikeouts at the plate and nine runners left on base, five of which were left in scoring position.
It also overcame a two-out, solo homerun that Clarke County's Thad Burton belted off W.S. Neal starting hurler Brandon Douglas in the top of the first inning that gave the visitors a brief 1-0 lead.
The Blue Eagles quickly got that run back in the bottom of the first inning when Justin Smith walked, went to third on a single by Douglas and scored on a sacrifice fly by Daniel Hodge.
W.S. Neal took the lead for good in the second inning. Cory Freeman doubled, Chad McCall reached on an error and Douglas was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Bulldog pitcher Robert Malone then walked Hodge to force in Freeman and put the Blue Eagles up 2-1.
An infield single by McCall, a walk to Justin Smith and a sacrifice by Douglas set up a two-run single by Jake Smith in the fourth inning that made it 4-1.
W.S. Neal went up 5-1 in the fifth inning when Freeman hit his second double, Deric Smith singled and McCall hit an RBI groundout.
The Bulldogs got back in the game in the sixth inning when Madison Anderson's RBI double and Malone's two-run single brought Clarke County within 5-4.
Douglas left the tying run at
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first base in the sixth inning when he got Burton to ground out. Douglas also survived a threat in the seventh inning when Jared Gates singled with two out and went all the way to third base on a wild pitch, but he got Andrew Kinman to fly out to Freeman in centerfield to end the game.
The Blue Eagles, who played at Milton (Fla.) Tuesday, host Flomaton Thursday at 7 p.m.
At W.S. Neal
Clarke County 100 003 0 – 4 9 1
W.S. Neal 110 210 X – 5 9 2