Photo: Etowah’s Caleb Freeman (right) leads off third base as head coach Blake Bone looks on during the Blue Devils’ 8-6 victory over Corner in the second round of the Class 4A state baseball playoffs last Friday (Apr. 21) in Attalla. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
The Etowah Blue Devils’ considerable postseason experience served them well against Corner in the second round of the Class 4A state baseball playoffs last Friday (Apr. 21) in Attalla.
Trailing by three runs and down their last six outs in Game 1, Etowah put across five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to win by a score of 8-6.
The Blue Devils carried that momentum into the second game, during which Etowah turned a close contest into a rout with an eight-run fifth inning on the way to an 11-1 victory in six innings.
Etowah (24-11) travels to West Limestone for a quarterfinal series this Thursday, May 4, at 4:30 and 7 p.m. An if-necessary Game 3 is scheduled for Friday, May 5 at 4:30 p.m.
In Game 1, Etowah watched its early one-run lead vanish in the in the top of the fourth, when the Yellow Jackets, who were down to their last out of the inning, loaded the bases with a single, a hit-by-pitch and a walk. Brendan Conner stroked an RBI double to tie the game at 3-3, while Cade Rouse and Brodie Dunlap lined consecutive RBI singles to make it 5-3.
The Blue Devils went down in order in the bottom of the inning, and an RBI groundout by Conner in the fifth widened the gap to 6-3.
That turned out to be the high water mark for Corner.
Both Andrew Pierce and Trace Thompson worked a walk at the start of the bottom of the sixth, followed by a two-out walk from Briggs Freeman. Cash Hayes was hit by a pitch during the next at-bat, drawing the Blue Devils within two runs.
After Hunter Humphries and Caleb Freeman worked consecutive walks to tie the game, Conner Dingler’s double to left-centerfield scored Hayes and Humphries for an 8-6 Etowah advantage.
Caleb Freeman took care of the rest. In the top of the seventh, he allowed two straight walks but was bailed out by a sharp 5-6-3 double play. With two runners on base, the Blue Devils intentionally walked Conner. That strategy paid off when Freeman struck out the next batter swinging to end the game.
After Corner scored a run in the top of the first, Humphries and Hayes scored on errors in the bottom of the inning. Lovell’s sacrifice fly in the second staked to the Blue Devils to a 3-1 lead.
Freeman was sharp in Game 2. In five innings, he allowed four hits and one earned run while striking out 12. He did not issue a walk.
While Freeman struck out six of the first seven Corner batters, his teammates staked him to a 3-0 lead by way of Hayes’ score off Slade St. Clair’s groundout, Jameson’s Scissum’s RBI single and Pierce’s run off a fielder’s choice.
Gavin Brown’s run-scoring base hit in the bottom of the third cut it to 3-1, but the Yellow Jackets’ night would soon take a turn for the worse.
Humphries got things started in the fifth inning when his double scored Morrison and Hayes. Humphries eventually stole third base and scored on a wild pitch to make it 6-1. Pierce then bunted home Caleb Freeman, and Thompson’s bases-clearing double made it 9-1.
Thompson proceeded to steal both third base and home plate, and Devine scored on a wild pitch to push the advantage to 10 runs.
Freeman make short work of the Yellow Jackets in the bottom of the fifth, striking out the side to end the game on the 10-run mercy rule.
For the series, Pierce went 2-for-4 with two RBI and three runs scored; Scissum went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored; Dingler had a two-RBI double; Humphries went 2-for-6 with three RBI, two doubles and two runs scored; Caleb Freeman went 2-for-6 with an RBI and a run scored; Thompson had a three-run double and a run scored; Hayes had a double and two runs scored and Briggs Freeman had a double and a run scored.