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April 10, 2013

PREP BASEBALL: Thompson, 'Cats whoop Tigers, clinch area championship (PHOTO GALLERY)

For all the hype that surrounds the heated rivalry between Cullman and Hartselle’s storied baseball programs, the Tigers sure didn’t put up much of a fight in the foes’ latest area series.

Over the past two days, the No. 5 Bearcats had more hits, better pitching and more fight than No. 6 Hartselle ever displayed — and now they have an area championship to show for it, too.

Keegan Thompson was masterful on the mound and not too shabby at the plate, either, blasting a three-run home run — his eighth — and two doubles to help Cullman cruise to an 8-1 home victory over the Tigers.

Following a six-inning gem by Jordan Guthrie one day prior, Thompson tossed one of his own on Wednesday, frustrating the Hartselle lineup by striking out eight and allowing just two hits in the win. The Auburn signee didn’t allow a runner to reach base until Brett Blackwood snuck a single past the shortstop with two outs in the fourth.

Lefty Jesse Scott fanned one in a scoreless seventh inning to preserve the decision.

Pitching hasn’t been a problem for the Black and Gold (25-14) this season, and neither was hitting in the Bearcats’ series-clinching contests. With the playoffs just around the corner, Thompson is feeling more confident than ever with his team excelling in every aspect of the game.

“When we’re hitting, I don’t think anybody can beat us,” he said. “As long as we play defense and pitch well, which we’ve been doing all year, we’re not going to lose as long as we go.”

Just like Tuesday’s ballgame, Cullman didn’t wait long to put its first runs on the scoreboard. Zac Crocker (single), Cole Collins (double) and Thompson (home run) all pushed pitches to the opposite field to rattle Tiger starter Colton Ord before he could even record a single out.

Wesley Walker (double) and Kolby Robinson (single) pitched in RBI hits to up the Bearcats’ lead to 5-0 in the third, and Lance Cleveland followed a Thompson double with a single to make it 6-0 the very next frame.

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