Fresh off claiming an area championship against rival Hartselle last week, Cullman took to the road on Saturday for a pair of games against Lincoln County High (Tenn.) in an effort to fine-tune before the start of the playoffs on Friday.
If those games were any indication, the No. 5 Bearcats could be in for a special run come late April-early May.
Cullman defeated the Falcons by scores of 6-2 and 5-0 to improve its record to 27-15 on the season.
The Black and Gold trailed 2-1 entering the top half of the seventh inning in the first game but weren’t about to go down without a fight.
After the first three batters reached base on walks, Auston Neal drove a two-run single just under the glove of the third baseman, scoring Kristian Robinson and Mason Jones to give his team a one-run lead.
“He has been someone who’s come up with hits for us this season,” coach Brent Patterson said. “Their guy was mixing his pitches well, but Auston hit a breaking ball out away from him and it just got through.”
The Bearcats tacked on three more runs in the frame, in part to some sloppy defense by the Falcons, to secure the win.
If Lincoln County had any inkling of going home with a split, those hopes were quickly dashed by Jordan Guthrie.
The lefty continued his stellar work in Game 2, tossing a complete-game one-hitter to go along with 11 strikeouts.
“He actually struggled in the first inning,” Patterson said. “But he really dotted it up after that. He located all his pitches very well. He’s a pitcher that understands who he is and controls the game.”
Cole Collins gave the Bearcats an insurmountable lead with a two-run double in the fifth inning to stake his team to a four-run advantage. Collins finished the game with two hits, as did Keegan Thompson and Lance Cleveland.
Patterson feels his team is hitting the ball better heading into the playoffs but would still like to see his defense sure up just a bit.
“We are starting to swing it better,” he said. “We just need to put two and two together. You can’t open doors in the playoffs with bad defense.”
Cullman had a little extra incentive to win on Saturday, as Andrew Winfrey made the trip with the team and threw out the ceremonial first pitch with another young man from the Lincoln County area. Patterson said it was a joint effort between both schools that led to the ceremony.
“We planned it back in the summer,” he said. “They had a kid who had also suffered a traumatic brain injury. It was a really cool deal to see them come together and get to do something like that. They gave us a really good example. They wanted to help.”
Playoff matchups have been set by the AHSAA and are as follows:
‰ Muscle Shoals at Cullman, Friday at 5 and 7 p.m.
‰ Fairview at Cleburne County, Friday at 4:30 and 7 p.m.
‰ Good Hope at Winfield, Friday at 4 and 6 p.m.
‰ Donoho at Addison, Friday at 4 and 6 p.m.
Should a tiebreaker need to be played on Saturday, all games would be played at 2 p.m. except Addison. The Bulldogs would start at 4 p.m.
Prep Track and Field
St. Bernard’s Will Faulk placed fifth in the 1,600-meter run at
Saturday’s Mountain Brook Invitational.
He finished with a personal-best time of 4:29.24, which was six seconds better than his previous mark.
Faulk was the only non-Class 6A participant to finish in the top 10.
Cullman native Duane Ricketts finished the Boston Marathon with a time of 3:23:26 on Monday. Ricketts finished in 508th place in his age group of 50-54.
% The Times' Jake Winfrey contributed to this report.