Cooper's bat, outfield defense save Eagles against Opp
Published 12:16 pm Wednesday, March 28, 2007
By BY BRUCE HIXON – SPORTS EDITOR
They were a hit away from possibly kicking the 10-run rule into effect. Little did the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles know at the time that couple of extra runs would have helped them breathe a little easier at the end.
Thanks to the big bat of Jared Cooper and two clutch defensive plays in the bottom of the seventh inning from leftfielder Tyler Brown and rightfielder James Freeman, the Blue Eagles were able to hold off the host Opp Bobcats 12-11 Monday.
Cooper drove in six runs with a single, a double and a grand slam homerun to spark the Blue Eagles, who had not played since a doubleheader split against T.R. Miller back on March 16.
Brown provided the first big defensive play in the seventh inning when he threw out Opp's Levi Taylor at second base. Taylor tried to stretch his single into a double after his hit drove home Klint Short and trimmed W.S. Neal's lead to 12-11.
While the Bobcats (6-6) missed out on that opportunity to get the tying run into scoring position, they got it back when Riley Dunn reached on an infield error and moved up to second base when Chris Dunbar grounded out. Cody Hall then hit a flyball off reliever William Shell that headed for the right field corner, but Freeman used his speed to track the ball down for the last out.
Both teams scored in all but two-at bats. W.S. Neal took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Josh Sawyer walked and went all the way to third on a wild pitch. Sawyer scored when Cooper reached on an infield error.
Miscues also helped Opp score two runs off W.S. Neal starter Josey Brown in the bottom half of the inning.
Riley Dunn led off with a single and Chris Dunbar reached on an error on his sacrifice bunt. Dunn scored when Rick Barnes beat out an infield single and Dunbar scored to put the Bobcats up 2-1 when Jeb McDaniel reached on an infield error.
Control problems got Opp starter Jack Spann in trouble in the top of the second inning. Spann walked Tyler Nall and Josey Brown with a single by Tyler Brown squeezed in between. Spann then walked James Freeman and forced Nall home with the tying run. Up stepped Cooper, who parked a Spann pitch over the leftfield wall for a grand slam homerun that put the Blue Eagles up 6-2.
W.S. Neal tacked on four more runs to its cushion in the top of the fourth. Sawyer beat out an infield single and James Freeman reached on an infield error. Cooper blooped a single into right field that drove home Sawyer and James Freeman scored on a wild pitch to make it 8-2. Jacob Cannon walked and two runs scored when Tyler Nall's single was misplayed to make it 10-2.
Opp started to climb back in the bottom of the fourth. A single by Joe Kyser, a groundout, an RBI single by Taylor, a hit batsman, an RBI groundout, an RBI triple by Cody Hall and a run-scoring wild pitch cut the deficit in half to 10-6.
The Blue Eagles got one of those runs back in the top of the fifth. Josey Brown walked and pinchrunner Jake Hodge scored on Cooper's third hit, an RBI double that made it 11-6.
An RBI single by Taylor, who had three hits and three RBIs for the Bobcats, got that run back in the bottom half of the fifth to make it 11-7.
A triple by Cannon and a sacrifice fly by Nall extended the Blue Eagles' lead to 12-7 in the top of the sixth. It also turned out to be the winning run.
Opp greeted Shell in his first inning of work after he relieved Josey Brown with a three-run rally in the bottom of the sixth. Hall walked, Barnes reached on an error and McDaniel hit an RBI groundout to make it 12-8. The big blow came one batter later when Mack Linton ripped a two-run homer that brought the Bobcats to within 12-10.
W.S. Neal, which hosted Hillcrest-Evergreen Tuesday in a Class 4A Area 2 doubleheader, hosts Andalusia Friday for a 4 p.m. doubleheader in a battle for first place in the Area standings.
W.S. Neal 150 411 0 - 12 9 5
Opp 200 413 1 - 11 13 3