Jordan Guthrie is having some kind of senior season.
West Point became the latest team to fall victim to Cullman’s consistent lefty, as Guthrie racked up 13 strikeouts and allowed just two hits in a 9-0 area win for the No. 5 Bearcats. He improved to 6-2 and notched his third shutout with the victory.
“I feel amazing. I really do,” the Snead State signee said. “I feel better than I ever have.”
According to Guthrie, the key to his success this season has come down to his ability to throw more strikes. The Warriors saw that for themselves in Tuesday’s road game, when the southpaw continuously used picture-perfect placement to get ahead in counts so he could finish off batters with his deadly curveball or any other pitch he pleased.
Guthrie struck out the side in the first and third innings and retired the last 11 batters in order after allowing a double to Ryder Jones in the fourth inning. The only other West Point player with a hit was Wesley Smith, who singled in the third.
“He’s tough to hit. Once we had two strikes, we had no chance,” Warrior coach Trai Meadows said. “Hats off to Guthrie. He pitched a great game.”
If the opposing skipper walks away impressed, you can bet Guthrie’s own coach was equally — if not more so — astounded by his pitcher’s latest gem.
“We’ve ridden him all year long. That man has got total command of everything he’s got,” Cullman’s Brent Patterson said. “It’s a good feeling to call pitches with somebody that’s going to put it exactly where you want it.”
The Black and Gold offense was only able to muster two hits in a 1-0 loss to Hoover in Guthrie’s previous start, but he received more than enough support in his sixth complete game of the season.
Lance Cleveland made West Point pay for a pair of two-out errors — a dropped fly ball in the infield and an errant throw into the outfield on a pickoff attempt by Smith at catcher — with an RBI single in the first inning.
After Wesley Walker pushed in another run with a single of his own in the fourth, the Bearcats pounced on a second dropped popup to take a 3-0 lead. Mason Jones then bunted in a run to complete the first of two straight three-run innings.
Thompson and Kristian Robinson came through with RBI singles in the fifth, while Cleveland knocked in a second run with a groundout. In the sixth, Zac Crocker brought in Jones with a single and quickly came around to cross home plate on a pinch-hit double down the left-field line from Maison Goodwin.
Crocker was the only Cullman batter with two hits. Cole Collins added a single in the fifth inning.
“It’s so much better to pitch with some offense like that,” Guthrie said. “We showed it, and now we’ve got to come out in the second game and do the same thing.”
Ryder Jones did his job as the Warriors’ starting pitcher, hurling five effective innings before handing the ball off to Will Wrenn for the final frame. Jones struck out three but eventually couldn’t keep bailing out his teammates for a poor defensive outing.
“Ryder pitched a great game,” Meadown said. “It’s hard to overcome errors, and they made us pay for it. We dropped a couple fly balls, and then next thing you know, they get a couple hits and put up six runs quick.”
The rivals were set to face off in a nightcap, which was still in progress at presstime Tuesday night. The contest had no implications in the foes’ area series.
With rain practically guaranteed for Thursday, both coaches agreed to move the teams’ originally scheduled doubleheader to today at 4 p.m. in West Point.
The Warriors will send Wallace State signee Wesley Waters to the mound for as long as his ailing triceps will allow, while the Black and Gold will turn to their national prospect in Thompson.
Another series victory would guarantee Cullman a coveted spot in the playoffs.
“We like where we are. We just know we’re a long way from where we need to be,” Patterson said. “But by no means is it over. We’ve still got to go to West Point and win.”
The Bearcats were 19-11 heading into Tuesday’s second game after defeating Muscle Shoals 6-4 and 11-3 Monday on the road.
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at email@example.com.