HOOVER — A win against arch-rival Hartselle can make or break a season for the Cullman baseball team.
For a taming of the Tigers to come on Opening Day — and in comeback fashion — even better.
Trailing by three or four runs for most of the contest, the Bearcats found their offensive groove in the back half of the ballgame en route to a 10-4 triumph Monday over the defending Class 5A state champs.
Starter Sam Huser allowed three runs in the first inning and one in the second before bearing down for the remainder of his four-frame outing. Senior Joseph Gable was stellar in three innings of relief, keeping Hartselle off the scoreboard to notch the win.
Wallace State signee Lance Cleveland accounted for a single and a double, while Maison Goodwin was good for two hits and an RBI.
“I was just really pleased at the way we kept competing despite the score and circumstances,” Black and Gold coach Brent Patterson said. “We got some ball s to fall for hits, Huser settled in and responded well to adversity and Joseph Gable came in and was tremendous for us in the last three innings, making some really big pitches.”
% Hazel Green 8, Cullman 5: The warm, wet weather gave way to a thick, eery fog that kept the Bearcats from playing their best baseball in Monday's nightcap. The game was called in the sixth inning, not long after the 6A Trojans broke a 5-5 tie with three late runs.
Patterson said there were times he could barely see his infielders. Keeping tabs on his outfielders was next to impossible.
“We played well, but tough conditions really hurt us,” the coach said. “We lost a bunch of balls and no one had any idea where they were.”
Branch Hill earned a no decision with three runs and five hits allowed in four innings on the hill. Noah Holder was tagged with the tough-luck loss after giving up two hits and an earned run in 2/3 innings.
Cleveland continued to slug with two more doubles in three at-bats. Owen Lovell added a double and RBI, and Cole Collins collected a two-base hit of his own.
With Game 1 at Hoover and Game 2 at Spain Park, Cullman (1-1) will bring the Birmingham-Huntsville home to Bill Shelton Field on Tuesday. Hoover and Grissom are scheduled to play at 4 p.m., followed by the Bearcats and 6A Buckhorn at 6:30 p.m.
% Hanceville 10, Winston County 0: The Bulldogs appeared to be in midseason form, needing just five innings to take down the Yellow Jackets Monday at the Good Hope Tournament.
Christian James tallied the win with two strikeouts and two walks in three innings of one-hit ball. Austin Coker came in the for the last two innings, giving up two hits and a walk.
Hayden Loggins was 2 for 3, while Isaac Hardin was 1 for 2 with four RBIs. His lone hit was a big one — an opposite-field, three-run bomb in the fourth inning to push Hanceville's lead to 9-0.
Isaac Weissend, Austin Coker, Branen Hurst, Kody Smith and Blake Baker tacked on a hit apiece for a Bulldog lineup not including first baseman, smooth swinger and captain Keith Twitty, who's services are still being used on the basketball court.
“We have been working so hard. It's just good to see the results on the field,” coach Michael Chandler said of Hanceville's Day 1 effort. “I was more proud of the zero errors on a rainy Opening Day and how we hit it considering all the inside practices we have had to have.”
The Dawgs will try to make it two wins in two games when it takes the field against Addison Tuesday at 4 p.m., again at Good Hope.
% The Times' sports editor Rob Ketcham contributed to this report.