Late rally lifts WSN baseball in opener
By By BRUCE HIXON – Sports Editor
They did not lead for long, but the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles baseball team led when it mattered the most in their 7-6 season-opening road win at Spanish Fort Monday.
The Blue Eagles trailed virtually the entire game until they rallied with the tying and go-ahead runs in the top of the seventh inning.
The Blue Eagles took a brief 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Justin Smith doubled and Whitney Qualls singled him home.
Spanish Fort answered with three runs off W.S. Neal starting hurler Whitney Qualls in the bottom of the first and extended that lead to 4-1 with another run in the second inning.
Both teams traded runs in the third inning. Justin Smith produced his second run in the top half of the frame when he walked, stole second, went to third on a passed ball and scored on Josh Danley's RBI fielders choice to make it 4-2, but Spanish Fort got that run back in the bottom half of the inning and increased its lead to 5-2.
A double by Eric Howell and an RBI single by Justin Cole brought the Blue Eagles within 5-3 in the top of the fourth, but Spanish Fort regained its three-run lead when it scored a run in the bottom of the fifth to make it 6-3 in Qualls' final inning of work.
W.S. Neal cut the lead to 6-5 in the top of the sixth. Qualls singled, but was forced out on a ball hit by Jacob Cannon. Howell kept the rally going with a single to set up a two-run double by Josh Carter.
The Blue Eagles' decisive rally in the seventh inning began with a one-out walk to Danley. Danley scooted all the way to third on a pair of wild pitches. Jake Smith drew a base on balls and moved into scoring position when he stole second. That proved to be huge when Jared Cooper lined a shot off the Spanish Fort pitcher. The hurler tried to recover and throw Danley out at the plate. Instead he overthrew the catcher and both Danley and Jake Smith scored to put the Blue Eagles up 7-6.
The rally made a winner out of reliever Josey Brown, who worked a scoreless sixth and seventh inning.
W.S. Neal, which hosted J.U. Blacksher Tuesday, is also home Friday when it hosts Red Level for a doubleheader that gets underway at 3 p.m.
At Spanish Fort
W.S. Neal 101 102 2 – 7 7 4
Spanish Fort 311 010 0 – 6 8 1