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March 22, 2014

PREP BASEBALL: Bearcats push winning streak to 10 games following sweep of 4A No. 10 Guntersville

CULLMAN — Cullman’s baseball team doesn’t care who it goes up against on the diamond right now.

Over the past two weeks, Grissom, Gardendale and area-rival East Limestone (twice) have all tried and failed to come away with even one win in doubleheaders versus the Black and Gold.

Surely, Guntersville — the No. 10 squad in Class 4A — could have conjured up a little bit of trouble for Cullman on Saturday afternoon, right?

Wrong.

The Bearcats parlayed a gutsy effort on the mound by Jesse Scott into a 2-1 win in Game 1 before collecting 11 hits in the nightcap in a 9-7 victory to extend their winning streak out to a season-high 10 contests.

“I’d much rather be on a 10-game winning streak than to be 5-5,” coach Brent Patterson said. “These games won’t matter at the end of the season, but it’s a lot more fun to be winning instead of losing.”

Cullman (18-7, No. 3 in 5A) took an early 1-0 lead in Game 1 on an RBI double from Owen Lovell in the first inning before its bats struck cold.

The Wildcats tied it up on an RBI hit in the third inning before Patterson lit a fire under his team to “put together some good at-bats.”

His players seemed to listen, as Lance Cleveland hammered a double, and Lovell followed with a tight single before shortstop Kolby Robinson collected a painful RBI on a hit-by-pitch to hand a 2-1 cushion back to the home team.

“I thought we had a little bit of lack of intensity and focus on offense,” Patterson said. “It’s been a long week, but you can’t take at-bats off. I really don’t think we were very disciplined in the first game.”

While the offense wasn’t clicking, Scott certainly was. After allowing Guntersville’s only run in the third, he sat down 14 of his next 15 batters — and picked off the one who reached — to close out the close win. He gave up two hits, walked three and struck out seven in a complete-game effort.

“I just needed to trust my defense,” Scott said. “After that hit, I just got in a groove.”

Added Patterson: “Jesse was good. We have said it a million times — he’s hard to hit. He did a good job of really limiting the damage by throwing strikes. We played good defense behind him, which was a good thing because we weren’t swinging it.”

Cullman got the bats going in Game 2, taking a 5-0 cushion after two innings of play. Clay Krout notched a two-run single to help the Bearcats’ cause before Robinson and Carter Bowen padded the lead with a couple of RBI groundouts.

Guntersville, however, came alive as well. The Wildcats got four runs off Noah Fondren in the fifth frame on four-straight RBI hits to close the deficit to 6-4.

The Black and Gold answered, though, as both Lovell and his teammate Orvis Cuello launched solo home runs to left-center field to give their squad a little bit of breathing room.

“Those were really important,” Patterson said. “Earlier in the season, we were sitting on leads, and we would have lost this game. Owen and Orvis hitting those homers helped us a lot.”

Auston Neal gave up a three-run dinger in the sixth but did settle down to retire the side. Bowen pitched around a double to notch the save.

“We’re real proud of our pitching staff,” Patterson said. “It’s hard to string together wins when you only have two or three pitchers. We’re really proud of the depth we have built. When we get down the line, we know we have guys we can win with.”

Lovell finished his day with five hits — three for extra bases — three runs and two RBIs. Collins and Krout each had two as well. Sam Huser, Drake Hollingsworth, Robinson and Cuello all had a hit and an RBI each. Neal and Cleveland had one single apiece.

The Bearcats will head to Hoover on Tuesday to take on Overton (Tenn.) at 2 p.m. before duking it out with Vestavia around 7 p.m.

% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at jwinfrey@cullmantimes.com.

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