Eagles hit their way to tourney title

Published 3:33 pm Wednesday, March 29, 2006

By By BRUCE HIXON – Sports Editor
If there was any letdown by the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles after last week's loss to T.R. Miller that knocked them out of the Class 3A Area 1 lead, it was not evident on the field where they knocked off three straight opponents Monday and Tuesday to capture their own invitational tournament championship.
W.S. Neal (10-2) doubled up Monroe County 10-5 in the opening game of the tournament Monday and downed Flomaton 9-1 in its second game that day. The Blue Eagles completed the tournament sweep Tuesday when they knocked off Escambia County 17-4 in just six innings.
Speaking of Justin Smith, the junior centerfielder had quite a tournament. Smith had eight hits with four singles, a double and the three homers. He also drove in six runs.
The Blue Eagles (10-2) will have another Area 1 first place battle with T.R. Miller when they host the Tigers Friday for a 12 noon doubleheader. The second game of the doubleheader is the designated Area tiebreaker in case the teams split the first two meetings. If T.R. Miller wins the first game, the second game will not be played because the Tigers will already have the tibebreaker based on a two-game sweep.
W.S. Neal 10,
Monroe County 5
The Blue Eagles may have had some struggles in the field where they made five errors, but they more than made up for those deficiencies at the plate where they hit double digits for runs and hits.
W.S. Neal scored in all six of its at bats although Monroe County had a 4-3 advantage headed into the bottom of the fourth inning.
James Freeman's RBI double plated Jacob Cannon to tie the game. After Freeman stole third, a wild pitch sent him home with the go-ahead run and gave W.S. Neal a 5-4 lead it would not relinquish. Justin Smith followed with the first of his two homeruns on the day, this one a solo shot that made it 6-4.
The Blue Eagles began to pull away in the bottom of the fifth when an RBI single by Cannon turned into a two-run hit after Monroe County centerfielder Keith Burt misplayed it for an error.
After Monroe County trimmed the gap to 8-5 with a run in the top of the sixth, RBI singles in the bottom of the sixth by Spencer Williamson and Jared Cooper doubled the lead up to 10-5.
Josey Brown went the first three and two-thirds innings for the win. Justin Smith followed with three innings of work before William Shell got the final out.
W.S. Neal 9, Flomaton 1
Justin Smith was pretty much a one-man wrecking crew to lead the Blue Eagles past the Hurricanes.
Smith singled twice, belted a three-run homer, walked, drove in four runs and scored three times.
Smith's first inning single was followed by walks to Spencer Williamson, Jared Cooper and Jake Smith that forced him across home plate in the top of the first inning and gave the Blue Eagles a lead they would not relinquish.
Justin Smith added an RBI single in a three-run second inning that made it 4-0 and also stole home on the front end of a double steal with Justin Cole.
Flomaton got its lone run against W.S. Neal pitcher Whitney Qualls, who struck out four in a complete game five-hitter, in the bottom of the fourth inning when Tyler Coleman's RBI single brought the Hurricanes within 4-1.
Justin Smith made sure the Hurricanes would not rally on this night when he followed a single by Jacob Cannon and a walk to James Freeman with a three-run homer in the top of the sixth that stretched the lead to 7-1.
Josh Carter provided an RBI single in the top of the seventh inning and eventually scored on a wild pitch that gave W.S. Neal two more insurance runs.
W.S. Neal 17,
Escambia County 4
Justin Smith led off the top of the first inning with a homerun and the Blue Eagles never let up in their six-inning rout of the Blue Devils.
Two Escambia County errors helped W.S. Neal extend its lead to 3-0 in the opening frame. The Blue Eagles ran that lead up to 5-0 in the top of the third on RBI doubles by Jared Cooper and Whitney Qualls.
The Blue Devils picked up their first hits and first runs in the bottom half of the third off W.S. Neal starting pitcher Josh Sawyer when Brian Johnson's RBI single and Corey Flowers' RBI double trimmed the Blue Eagles' lead to 5-2.
A five-run uprising in the top of the fourth inning enabled W.S. Neal to pull away. Cooper had the key blow of the inning, a two-run single.
Jacob Cannon and Spencer Williamson also had RBI singles.
Jake Smith's two-run homer in the top of the fifth increased the Blue Eagles' lead to 13-2 and put them in position to win the game on the 10-run rule.
While two Escambia County runs in the bottom of the fifth off reliever Jimmie Jones prevented the mercy rule from coming into play in the fifth inning, four W.S. Neal runs in the top of the sixth made sure the game would not go the distance thanks to a two-run single by Josh Carter.
Monday's game one
Monroe Co. 002 201 0 – 5 8 3
W.S. Neal 111 322 X - 10 10 5
Game two
W.S. Neal 130 003 2 - 9 7 0
Flomaton 000 100 0 - 1 5 1
Tuesday's game
W.S. Neal 302 624 - 17 20 2
Escambia Co. 002 020 – 4 6 3

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