Messenger file photo by Chris McCarthy
By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
Dominant pitching catapulted Class 4A No. 1 Hokes Bluff into the quarterfinals of the state baseball playoffs, as the Eagles swept Wilson on April 26 at Estes/Wright Field.
The Eagles (23-3) travel to Fayette County on Friday, May 3, for a best-of-three third round series.
Hokes Bluff senior Dylan Teague (pictured above) tossed a complete game shutout in the opener, outdueled Auburn commitment Luke Daniel in a 3-0 victory. Teague struck out nine and walked none while only allowing four hits. He retired the last 11 batters of the game.
After Wilson opened the game with back-to-back hits, Teague settled in and forced three straight outs. The Warriors did not threaten to score for the remainder of the game.
“Dylan Teague pitched like the Dylan Teague we’ve known,” said Hokes Bluff head coach Mike Robertson. “He carved them up. After the first two hits, it was a Dylan Teague special. He didn’t throw a lot of change-ups. It was mostly fastballs and curveballs, and it was obvious his fastball was moving.”
Teague said he felt good in the bullpen before the game, and he knew the Eagles would give him the run support he needed once he settled in.
“It started out in the bullpen,” Teague said. “I was throwing strikes. I was feeling it on the first pitch. I noticed when I saw their feet that they were off the plate. Whenever I’d go outside, I’d throw a two-seamer. We know we’re going to get some runs eventually.”
Hokes Bluff finally started to click offensively in the bottom of the fifth inning when Carson Eubanks hit a leadoff double. Teague bunted Eubanks over to third, and a throwing error allowed Eubanks to score to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead. Two batters later, Houston Edwards knocked through a base hit to score pinch runner Jordan Bradley to extend the lead to 2-0.
The Eagles added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when Ashton Gulledge scored on a Wilson error. Eubanks hit the ball to shortstop, and a throwing error scored Gulledge, who hit a single and stole second earlier in the inning.
In the nightcap, sophomore pitcher Payton Lemons delivered another steady performance as the Eagles knocked off the Warriors, 4-2.
Koby Addison blasted a solo home run in the top of the first inning for the Eagles, but the visitors evened the score in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single from Brycen Parrish. Lemons threw 36 pitches in the first inning but settled in and struck out five of the first six outs of the game for Hokes Bluff.
Edwards led off the top of the fourth with a double. Jackson Fielding entered the game as the pinch runner for Edwards and he scored three batters later on a wild pitch to give the Eagles a 2-1 advantage. However, Wilson tied the game 2-2 in the bottom of the inning on an RBI double from Owen Roberson that scored Parrish.
Eubanks connected on a one-out single in the top of the fifth, and Addison plated him two batters later on an RBI single and a throwing error.
The Eagles added another run in the top of the seventh after Eubanks laid down a bunt single that led to a throwing error, which scored Gulledge to extend the lead to 4-2.
Caleb McGinnis came on in relief of Lemons in the bottom of the seventh and struck out two batters to preserve the win.
Robertson was proud of the way his team battled at the plate in the second game while crediting Lemons with bouncing back after a slow start on the mound.
“I thought we really battled at the plate,” he said. “We knew we weren’t going to score much and we had to win these kinds of games against their two guys. I thought we did a really good job manufacturing runs. (Assistant) Coach (Jake) Ball is the hitting instructor and he’s been on them about bunting. That’s how we scraped together runs in the second game.”
“Lemons threw 36 pitches (in the first inning), and he can’t throw more than a hundred. Payton battled. He didn’t have it the first couple of innings. He was all over the place. His fastball wasn’t cutting. Give Caleb (McGinnis) credit, too. He throws strikes. I feel good about him coming in.”
Eubanks led the way at the plate in the second game. The senior centerfielder was 4-for-4 with a double, three singles and a stolen base. He was also 2-for-4 with a double, one RBI and one stolen base in the first game.
Addison was 2-for-3 with a home run and 2 RBI. Lemons finished the game with 10 strikeouts and two walks while allowing five hits and two earned runs in six innings.
Robertson added that the Eagles used their speed well on the bases in both games.
“We aren’t as fast as we were last year, but when you get Jackson Fielding, (Ashton) Gulledge, Carson (Eubanks) and Teague on, we’re pretty fast. We manufactured some runs. A win’s a win this time of year.”