Eagles playoff hopes end at CC
They lost both games, their top pitcher was injured and may be done for the season, they were eliminated from playoff contention and their first game loss gave the Area championship to their arch rival.
Needless to say the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles baseball team has enjoyed better days than Monday.
For starters, the Blue Eagles lost both ends of their Class 3A Area 1 doubleheader at Clarke County. The Bulldogs held on for a 7-4 win in the opener and then punished W.S. Neal 22-0 in four and one-half innings in game two.
A win in the first game, the Area counter, would have pushed W.S. Neal (7-13 overall and 1-3 in Area 1) on the verge of a playoff berth. Instead the loss eliminated the Blue Eagles from postseason competition.
W.S. Neal's first game loss clinched the Area 1 championship and a first-round home playoff game for T.R. Miller (4-1 in Area). Clarke County (3-2 in Area 1) can wrap up the other playoff berth from Area 1 if it beats Straughn (2-3 in Area 1) later this week.
The scores were not the only setback for W.S. Neal. Senior pitcher/shortstop Brandon Douglas injured his ankle on a play at the fence in game two and may miss the rest of the regular season.
The Blue Eagles had some chances to take the critical first game. W.S. Neal, which beat Clarke County 5-4 last week, took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning on a single by Justin Smith, a groundout by Daniel Hodge and Jake Smith's RBI single.
Clarke County rallied with four runs off Douglas in the bottom of the third inning to take the lead for good, but W.S. Neal was able to battle back.
That lead was trimmed to 4-2 in the top of the fourth inning when Cory Freeman and Bobby Freeman were both hit by pitches and Justin Smith reached on a fielder's choice to load the bases. Hodge then walked to force in Cory Freeman.
After Clarke County extended its lead in the bottom of the fifth inning with a run that made it 5-2, the Blue Eagles pulled within a run in the top of the sixth inning when Cory Freeman doubled and Justin Smith
blasted a two-run homer that cut the Bulldogs' advantage to just 5-4.
The comeback hopes lost a lot of steam in the bottom of the sixth inning when Clarke County, which benefited from six walks and two hitters in the game, picked up a couple of key insurance runs that stretched the lead to 7-4.
While the game one loss was disappointing for W.S. Neal, game two was a nightmare.
The Blue Eagles were no-hit by Clarke County pitcher Robert Malone. Malone allowed just one runner, a third inning walk to Hodge.
The Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning against W.S. Neal pitcher Whitney Qualls and then struck for 21 more over the next three innings.
W.S. Neal's next action is Friday when it plays at T.R. Miller with a first game start set for 4 p.m.