Messenger file photo by Chris McCarthy
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
For the first time in five years, the Etowah High baseball team is back in the state quarterfinal round.
In a deciding third game last Saturday in Attalla, the Blue Devils (24-12) edged Westminster Christian, 4-3, to move on to a Class 4A third-round series at Jacksonville starting Thursday, May 6.
Etowah split the opening doubleheader with Westminster on April 29, winning 10-1 and losing 2-0.
Trace Thompson (pictured above) was the man of the hour in Game 3. In seven innings, the senior righthander allowed three runs while striking out two. After the Wildcats went ahead 2-0, Thompson limited the visitors to three hits the rest of the way.
Etowah head coach Blake Bone noted that despite being the No. 3 pitcher, Thompson has the lowest earned run average and lowest opponent batting average on the staff.
Trey went out there and gave us a great effort,” said. “He’s done that all year for us. He showed a lot of mental toughness after we got down early and kept guys off the bases. It was important to get a good outing from him, and he came through. To have a guy that like that for a No. 3 is a pretty good weapon. We also made big plays when we had to with guys stepping up defensively.”
Bone pointed to the Blue Devils speed on the basepaths as a key factor in the series.
“That always plays a role for us, whether it’s taking the extra base after a hit or coming up with a steal. We base our game on playing fast and it’s a big factor in how we generate offense.”
In the series opener on April 29, winning pitcher Jameson Scissum went five innings before exiting with a comfortable lead.
“We swung the bats pretty well and got some motion on the bases and created some havoc,” said Bone. “Jameson threw about 65 pitches and we wanted to conserve his arm a little bit. He gives us a chance every time he goes out there.”
Despite pitching a no-hitter with 15 strikeouts, Game 2 starter Caleb Freeman took the loss for Etowah. Westminister’s two runs came as a result of two walks and a pair of fielding errors. The Blue Devils managed only three hits.
“You never should lose when you get a pitching effort like that one,” said Bone. “Caleb pitched his guts out, but we couldn’t get anything going offensively and couldn’t get that timely hit. But give Westminister credit; they really improved defensively the last two games (of the series) and settled in.”
The Blue Devils have not played Jacksonville this season, but Bone is aware of the current state of the Golden Eagles.
“They’re hot right now,” he said. “They’re swinging the bats and doing a lot of things right. It should be a pretty good series. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished but winning a state title has been our goal all season, and that’s still what we want. But we’re taking it one step at a time. We’ve got a great coaching staff that does a great job of getting our guys prepared. We just have to go out and execute.”