Twinbill setback knocks Eagles out of Area lead
Published 12:35 pm Monday, April 2, 2007
By BY BRUCE HIXON – SPORTS EDITOR
Teams want to be able to control their own destiny when it comes to their postseason path.
The W.S. Neal Blue Eagles are still in a position of controlling their own destiny despite Friday's 7-3 game one loss to the Andalusia Bulldogs.
W.S. Neal is now in a much different position than it was before play started Friday. Instead of being able to control their own destiny when it comes to winning the Class 4A Area 2 championship, the Blue Eagles are now in a position of being able to control their own destiny when it comes to securing Area 2's second and final playoff spot if they win their Area game at T.R. Miller. W.S. Neal can still win the Area championship, but it has to win its final two games and have Andalusia lose twice since the Bulldogs also own the tiebreaker over the Blue Eagles thanks to Friday's 5-3 victory in game two.
While W.S. Neal and T.R. Miller will most likely have to battle it out for the Area's second playoff spot, Andalusia took a huge step towards the Area championship and a first-round home playoff game with its sweep.
The Bulldogs will win the Area if they win one of their two final Area games against W.S. Neal and T.R. Miller or if W.S. Neal loses one of its remaining two Area games. T.R. Miller was eliminated from the Area championship race with Friday's sweep.
Andalusia (14-6 overall and 4-0 in Area 2) took advantage of three W.S. Neal errors to score five unearned runs in game one against Blue Eagles pitcher Josey Brown.
Two of those came in the top of the first inning. Brown looked as if he had gotten out of a two-on, two-out jam when he whiffed Matt Mellown, but a wild pitch allowed Mellown to reach base and Jeffery Etheridge to come in and score from third base.
Brown then caught Mellown in a rundown between first and second base on a pickoff play. Not only did Mellown get out of the rundown, but Taylor Culbreth stole home to make it 2-0.
W.S. Neal got a pair of runs off Mellown in the bottom half of the first to tie the game. Jared Cooper drew a two-out walk and scored on a double by Jake Smith. Smith came home to score one batter later when Jacob Cannon singled.
The Blue Eagles took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the fourth when Cannon doubled to start the inning and scored on a two-out double by Tyler Brown.
Andalusia responded with a key four-run rally in the top of the fifth to take the lead for good with the aid of two huge errors by the W.S. Neal defense. The first one came after a successful sacrifice bunt by Aaron Haag. An even bigger one came with two out when two runs scored after Ryan Godwin's flyball into left field was misplayed.
The Bulldogs tacked on another marker in the top of the seventh on Taylor Culbreth's RBI single.
A defensive mistake by W.S. Neal also played a key role in game two.
The Blue Eagles had a 2-1 lead in the top of the third when an infield error after a leadoff walk set up a game-tying RBI single by Haag, a two-run double by winning pitcher Taylor Culbreth that put the Bulldogs ahead for good and a sacrifice fly by Mellown that gave Andalusia a 5-2 lead.
W.S. Neal, which got an RBI single by Jake Smith in the bottom of the first and an RBI double by Josh Sawyer in the second, narrowed the gap to 5-3 in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI double by Tyler Nall.
Sawyer took the loss, as he scattered seven hits although one was a homerun by Nic Cooper to start the game.
The Blue Eagles step out of Area play Monday when they host Jay, Fla. at 4:30 p.m.
Andalusia 200 041 0 - 7 7 1
W.S. Neal 200 100 0 - 3 6 3
Andalusia 104 000 0 - 5 7 1
W.S. Neal 110 100 0 - 3 7 2
Eagles sweep Hillcrest
W.S. Neal set up its showdown with Andalusia with an Area doubleheader sweep of the visiting Hillcrest-Evergreen Jaguars Tuesday. The Blue Eagles ended both games early, as they needed only six innings to win the first game 11-1 and only four and a half innings to take game two 13-1.
W.S. Neal had just five hits in the opener, but benefited from seven Hillcrest errors.
The game was deadlocked at 1-1 in the bottom of the third when the Blue Eagles broke the game open with a five-run rally.
Jake Smith singled and went to third on a pair of balks. Jacob Cannon walked, while Bobby Freeman followed with an RBI single. Cannon and Freeman both scored when Tyler Nall and Tyler Brown both reached on errors. Josey Brown walked to set up a two-run single by James Freeman.
Josh Sawyer went the first five innings to get the win. Sawyer allowed one run on three hits to go along with five strikeouts.
A 10-run rally in the bottom of the first inning sparked W.S. Neal to the win in game two. The key blow of the frame was a grand slam homerun by Smith, who also had a double and five total RBIs in the game.
Smith's homer was the first of two by the Blue Eagles, who also got a solo shot by Nall in the fourth.
William Shell, the second of three W.S. Neal pitchers, got credit for the win. Shell worked two hitless and scoreless innings to go along with our strikeouts.
Hillcrest 100 000 – 1 3 7
W.S. Neal 105 302 - 11 5 0
Hillcrest 100 00 – 1 3 1
W.S. Neal (10)01 2X - 13 11 0