By Chris McCarthy
Etowah High made short work of Cleburne County on Friday (Apr. 21).
The No. 4 Blue Devils (27-6) advanced to the second round of the Class
5A state baseball playoffs following a 5-0, 10-1 series sweep in
Etowah visits Lee-Huntsville on Friday (Apr. 28) for a best-of-three
Both victories over the Tigers were sparked by standout pitching
performances. Eli Dunn twirled a two-hitter in the opener, allowing
pair of walks and just four baserunners while striking out six. The
Tigers managed just two runners in scoring position. In the nightcap,
Cade Runyan fanned seven while yielding only four hits and two walks.
He retired the side in order four times, and only one Cleburne County
runner advanced past first base. Runyan sent down eight of the final
Tiger batters he faced.
“Both pitchers threw well and did what they were supposed to do,” said
Etowah head coach Larry Foster. “We always look for Dunn to have a
good game. Cade started out a little rough, but the more he got into
the game, the better he got.”
Dunn and Runyan enjoyed stellar support in the field, as the Blue
Devils did not commit an error in either game.
“In this program, you don’t get to play if you don’t play good
defense,” said Foster. “Our guys go out there and expect to catch the
ball and they expect to have fun while they do it.”
Dunn had the visitors reeling from the start om the opening game. From
the first through the fifth innings, he sent down 15 of the first 17
Tiger batters. Dunn’s only blemish over that stretch was Jordan
Brown’s base hit in the top of second inning.
Dunn received all the support he would need in the bottom of the
inning courtesy of Zack Jones’ single that drove in Austin Young.
Logan Steele’s base hit plated Jones in the third for a 2-0 lead.
Four errors led to three Etowah runs in the fourth, with Jacob Bobo,
Runyan and David Rutledge scoring for a 5-0 advantage.
Cleburne County had an opportunity in the top of the sixth with
runners on first and second with two outs, but Dunn ended the threat
by inducing a flyout to rightfielder Dylan Robinson.
Dunn allowed a one-out walk in the seventh before retiring the next two batters.
Avery Gentry took the loss for the Tigers, allowing seven hits, two
walks and three earned runs with four strikeouts.
As the visiting team on the scoreboard in game 2, Etowah battered
Cleburne County starter Dustin Brown for four runs off four hits in
the top of the first. Dunn, Bobo and Rutledge all had run-scoring base
hits in the inning.
The Tigers pushed across a run in the bottom of the first to draw
within 4-1, but that was a close as the Heflin squad would get. Runyan
basically picked up where Dunn left off, retiring 15 out of 17 batters
from the first through the sixth innings. He escaped minor trouble in
the bottom of the fourth when the visitors has men on first and second
with two outs, but Bobo picked off one of those baserunners to end the
In the meantime, Bobo’s two-run double in the second made it 6-0.
Rutledge’s two-run home run highlighted a four-run fifth inning. For
all intents and purposes, that dinger put the game out of reach.
“Rutledge’s homer would get your attention,” said Foster. “He’s been
doing really well hitting the ball, especially with power.”
For the series for Etowah, Rutledge went 3-for-6 with four RBI and
three runs scored; Bobo went 4-for-8 with 2 RBI; Steele went 3-for-6
with two RBI and a run scored; Jones had three hits, an RBI and a run
scored; Young had two hits, an RBI and two runs scored; Dunn had two
hits and an RBI; Noah Parrish had a hit and two runs scored; and
Robinson had two runs scored.
Although the Blue Devils have not played Lee-Huntsville for the past
several seasons, Foster and Generals head coach Butch Weaver know each
“I haven’t seen Coach Weaver in about 15 years, but he’s still hanging
in there like me. He and I have had some pretty good wars together,
and any team he coaches will be fundamentally sound.”