The Cullman Times
HEFLIN — Rainy conditions were responsible for extending Fairview's season into the weekend. The Aggies could only blame themselves for not being able to get out of it.
Cleburne County feasted on a slew of errors and managed to keep the Purple and Gold's oft-explosive offense at bay, winning 6-3 and 14-3 on Saturday night to advance to the second round of the Class 4A playoffs.
According to coach Curt Alexander, Fairview definitely had its chances in both contests. His team ultimately couldn't capitalize on them, however, making too many mistakes in the field while the Tiger defense seemed to plug up every hole the Aggie batters tried to exploit.
“It was one of them games where you're hitting the ball hard, but it just goes right to them,” Alexander said. “It seemed like everything worked out their way in the first game, and that happens.”
The nightcap turned out to be be much of the same for the Purple and Gold. They jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning that held until the third, when Cleburne County took advantage of more miscues for an eight-run eruption. The following frame wasn't any better.
“We had one inning where they didn't get the ball out of the infield and scored seven runs,” Alexander said of the fourth. “We beat ourselves. We can definitely play with that team. I think maybe the pressure got to us, but we still had a great season. I'm proud of the guys.”
Luke Bailey went the distance on the mound for Fairview in the opener. The senior struck out two and also picked up two hits and a stolen base. Bryant Powers, who touted the same number of hits, and Devon Parker each drove in one run.
Powers struck out four for the Aggies in Game 2.
Bailey knocked in Cody Edge, who led off the first inning with a single, with a double, while Powers and Dexton Gregory also accounted for RBI hits.
The prep careers of eight Purple and Gold seniors — Bailey, Powers, Trent Shoemaker, Lane Denny, Austin Earwood, Jake Chandler, Dexton Gregory and Jesse Hill — came to a close with the conclusion of Saturday's doubleheader. ]
Bailey will go down in Fairview lore as one of the school's most decorated athletes, becoming the Aggies' winningest all-time quarterback last fall while also shining on the basketball court — he eclipsed the 1,000-point career mark during his senior season — and on the diamond. In March, the dual-threat signal-caller announced his intentions to play football for Huntingdon College in Montgomery.
“It's going to be tough,” Alexander said of losing Bailey to graduation this May. “Luke is more than just a good athlete. He's a natural-born leader. He's the kind of kid you hope to get on your team. We're going to miss him tremendously.”
With so many seniors on their way out — three were starting pitchers and seven were valuable contributors in the lineup — the Purple and Gold will likely face an uphill battle when they try to improve on this season's 18-11 record in 2014. As daunting as most rebuilding projects tend to be, though, Alexander is confident Fairview's baseball program won't fade away into obscurity anytime soon.
“We've got a lot of work to do, but with the guys we've got coming up, I think we can do it,” the coach said.
% The Times' sports editor Rob Ketcham contributed to this report.