Eagles punch their ticket
Published 6:03 pm Monday, April 17, 2006
By By BRUCE HIXON – Sports Editor
They have been a spectator for four years, but the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles found their way back to the postseason ticket window Friday when they knocked off the visiting Clarke County Bulldogs 9-5.
The win gives W.S. Neal (15-4) second place in Class 3A Area 1 and the second and final postseason berth for the Area.
The Blue Eagles (4-2 in Area play) needed to beat Clarke County (2-4 in Area play) just once Friday to land the postseason berth. Clarke County went into Friday's game needing to beat W.S. Neal twice.
Josh Wafford's RBI single in the top of the first gave Clarke County a brief 1-0 lead.
The Blue Eagles took the lead for good in the bottom half of the inning. Spencer Williamson tied the game with a two-out solo homerun. Jared Cooper reached on an error, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored when Jake Smith, who walked, was caught in a rundown.
W.S. Neal extended that lead to 6-1 in the second inning. Qualls led off with a double and scored on a single by Josh Carter. Eric Howell added an RBI groundout, while Cooper drilled an RBI single. Another run scored on a wild pitch.
W.S. Neal pitcher Josey Brown was cruising until a two-out double by Tyler Walker in the top of the fifth. Robert Malone's infield grounder was misplayed, which allowed Walker to score to make it 6-2. Hunter Cross then parked a Brown delivery over the leftfield wall for a two-run homer that suddenly reduced the Blue Eagles' comfort zone to just 6-4.
W.S. Neal quickly regained its lost momentum in the bottom of the fifth. Spencer Williamson singled, stole second and scored on a single by Cooper. Cooper's hit was misplayed for an error and he wound up at third base on the play. That enabled him to score on a wild pitch that made it 8-4.
Clarke County plated a run off reliever Justin Smith in the top of the sixth that reduced its deficit to 8-5, but the Blue Eagles got that run back in
the bottom of the sixth. Josh Danley singled, stole second and third, and scored on a throwing error on the second steal attempt.
The Blue Eagles dropped their second decision of the season to the Jay (Fla.) Royals Tuesday when they dropped a 7-2 decision on the road.
W.S. Neal was limited to just four hits and struck out 16 times against Jay pitcher Brandt Hendricks. Eight of those strikeouts came from the top four spots in the Blue Eagles lineup.
W.S. Neal took a brief 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Justin Smith reached on an error, moved up a base on a wild pitch and scored on Jared Cooper's RBI double. Jake Smith then singled Cooper home to make it 2-0.
Jay tied the game with a pair of runs off Blue Eagles starter Whitney Qualls in the bottom of the first inning and took the lead for good with a run in the bottom of the second inning. The Royals added to their cushion with another run in the fifth inning and three additional runs in the sixth.
The Blue Eagles host Spanish Fort Monday at 6:30 p.m.
W.S. Neal 200 000 0 - 2 4 4
Jay 210 013 X - 7 6 0
Clarke County 100 031 0 - 5 8 4
W.S. Neal 240 021 X- 9 8 2