WSN's loss is TRM's gain
Published 3:16 pm Monday, April 23, 2007
By BY BRUCE HIXON – SPORTS EDITOR
The loss went to W.S. Neal, but the gain went to T.R. Miller.
The Blue Eagles came up short on their second and final attempt to lock down a berth in the Class 4A state playoffs Tuesday when they were doubled up 8-4 by the host Andalusia Bulldogs.
Tuesday's setback dropped W.S. Neal (3-3 in Area play) into a second place tie with T.R. Miller for Area 2's second and final playoff berth. While the Tigers and Blue Eagles split their two regular season counters, T.R. Miller claimed the playoff berth based on its win over W.S. Neal in the tiebreaker game.
Much like their previous Area game against T.R. Miller where the Blue Eagles left 14 runners on base, committed seven errors and had a pair of three-run leads disappear, fielding errors and the lack of a big hit doomed W.S. Neal against Andalusia.
W.S. Neal, which lost for the seventh straight time, committed three errors that factored into six of Andalusia's runs. The Blue Eagles stranded at least one runner in six of the seven innings and eight runners overall.
The biggest missed opportunity came in the top of the fifth after the Blue Eagles had scored twice to tie the game at 4-4. W.S. Neal had runners on second and third with one out and the bases loaded with two out, but failed to score.
Andalusia, which completed a perfect Area season at 6-0, took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first against W.S. Neal pitcher Josey Brown. Nick Cooper and Jeffrey Etheridge hit back-to-back singles to start the frame and both moved up a base on a sacrifice bunt by Taylor Culbreth. Both runners scored on an infield error on a groundball hit by Matt Mellown.
It was not until the top of the fourth when W.S. Neal was able to break through against Bulldogs starting pitcher Chris Atkins. Jared Cooper and Jake Smith both walked. Cooper had a successful theft of third base and scored easily when Jacob Cannon lined an RBI double into the left-centerfield gap. Tyler Nall got Smith home with the tying run two batters later on a sacrifice fly.
The Bulldogs quickly regained their two-run advantage in the bottom half of the inning. James Hogg doubled and Cooper and Etheridge followed with two-out, RBI singles that made it 4-2.
The pivotal top of the fifth inning began with a pinch-hit single by Aaron Nelson and a walk to Josh Sawyer. Both runners scored when Tyler Brown laid down a sacrifice bunt that rolled to the right side of the mound. Atkins fielded the ball, but made an off-balance throw that sailed down the right field line. Both runners scored to tie the game at 4-4.
Brown moved over to third on a wild pitch. While Cooper flew out on an infield pop-up, Smith was hit by a pitch and stole second to put runners at second and third with one out. Atkins got a huge out when he fanned Cannon, but a walk to Bobby Freeman loaded the bases. Atkins got out of the jam with the game still tied when he got Nall to ground out.
Andalusia's decisive rally in the bottom of the sixth began when Ryan Godwin was hit by a pitch to start the frame and Atkins, who surrendered his pitching duties in the top half of the inning to Culbreth, singled with one out. Cooper followed with a walk that loaded the bases.
Etheridge hit a sharp groundball to shortstop Josh Sawyer. Sawyer went for the lead man at the plate, but his throw was low and sailed past catcher Jacob Cannon. Two runs scored on the play and gave the Bulldogs a 6-4 lead.
Andalusia all but put the game away one batter later when Aaron Haag hit a sacrifice fly into right field. Cooper scored easily on the play, but a throwing error also allowed Etheridge to score and doubled the lead to 8-4.
W.S. Neal 000 220 0 - 4 5 2
Andalusia 200 204 X - 8 9 1