Big hits fuel Wetumpka’s first-day win over Post 237Published 6:00am Saturday, July 20, 2013
TROY — The Wetumpka Strikers, a game below .500 coming into the American Legion Alabama State Tournament, proved they could hang winning their first game 11-1 over Huntsville-based Post 237.
While the chance to play for a state championship is a thrill, the venue is even more exciting.
“It’s been my dream to play here,” Clayton Shephard said after Thursday’s win. “The stadium is nice and the turf is a lot easier to slide on.”
This weekend the state tournament – featuring the top eight American Legion teams from throughout the state – is being contested at Troy University’s Riddle-Pace Field. The field is a unique diamond. It’s completely turfed sans the pitchers mound and the homeplate circle.
“It felt great up there,” said Brady Knight, who picked up the save and then, with bases loaded, stood in front of a wayward fastball for the game-winning RBI. “I never thought I’d have this experience,” said Knight. “But it felt great to go out there and get that first strike.”
The Strikers advanced to play Tuscaloosa Friday and will play Saturday at either 10 in the morning or later in the afternoon at 4, depending on the outcome.
Cody Herring picked up the first game win despite the Post 237 Eagles taking a 1-0 lead without an actual hit. Herring plunked the first two batters and then an error pushed the run home. That was it for the Eagles. It was Wetumpka’s game the rest of the way. The Strikers evened the game at 1-1 in the first. After leading off with a triple, Keith Johnson singled to score Herring from third. The Strikers plated another four runs in the second.
Tristan Hughes reached on an error and took second on what would become a Strikers parade around the bases. Shephard drew a walk. Herring drew a fastball to the hip to load the bases. Johnson took one off the calf for an RBI.
With bases juiced, Dalton Shephard drove an Eagles offering deep into centerfield for a bases clearing double.
After a Strike-’em-out/throw-’em out double play ended the top of the third, Wetumpka went back to work and plated two more runs.
Tyler Knight singled to lead off the frame and then took third on a throwing error to first in an attempt to get Logan Burdett out.
A Hughes sacrifice pushed Knight home and the score to 6-1 Wetumpka. Clayton, the younger Shephard, was popped by a wayward slider to load the bases. Johnson drove an offering up the middle pushing Knight and Burdett home. Sliding into second, Johnson overshot the bag and was left scrambling to return. Before being tagged out. With the fray under way at second, Shephard turned the corner at third and sprinted home, but was tagged out diving toward the plate.
Wetumpka remained in control, en route to winning the game and advancing.
Millbrook stuns Hartselle
Millbrook’s Post 133 took the long way round in earning a state tournament berth.
After a seven-inning slugfest with the tourney’s top team, they proved they belonged there.
“We haven’t been playing great defensively, but (Thursday) night we showed up and got it done,” said Wade Atchley, coach of the Millbrook Legion team. “We beat Bibb County to get here and then we beat Hartselle in the first round. They are the defending (AHSAA) 5A champions. They are really good, but we played really good baseball and when we do that, we make it extremely difficult on you.”
Millbrook Navy came into this weekend’s tournament as the No. 8 seed after knocking off Centreville in a last-chance play-in game after dropping back-to-back games against Childersburg (a 10-9 loss in eight and a 6-5 loss in 11) in the district tournament.
“Wetumpka’s got a good shot to win this thing,” said Atchley. “I’d trade places with them in a minute.”
Both Elmore County teams have made it to the second round.
Wetumpka gets Tuscaloosa and Millbrook gets Childersburg.
“They are a really good team,” said Atchley.
With Post 133’s lineage, a trip to the state tournament is an expectation.
“We don’t really talk about it from year to year,” said Atchley. “Our kids expect to be in the hunt for a state title. And a lot of that is bred into the new players from the older players just coming in. It doesn’t matter how you get in the tournament, we expect to be there.”
In Thursday’s game, Andrew Casey (Stanhope Elmore) was the winning pitcher working seven innings and striking out four.
“I know we’ve got a good ballclub,” said Atchley. “We’ve shown that we can be extremely good at times. But sometimes we just can’t put it together and that’s usually been on the defensive end.”
However, against Hartselle, it all came together as Millbrook scored three runs in the first two innings.
“Jameson Baker and Britton Webb tattooed the ball (Thursday),” said Atchley. “They were our offense.”
The two rattled off two-out singles and pushed three runs home. Webb and Baker, along with Jared Nixon, Dalton Yarnell and Jordan Lowe accounted for Millbrook’s five run.
Jake Neslon took the loss for Hartselle.