By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
And then there were four.
By late Saturday afternoon, that's all that was left of the contenders for the Class 5A baseball title.
Anyone at Valley Park Friday night is already well aware how the Bearcats advanced — 4-0 and 7-0 shutouts of Walker with enough “pitching it and defending it” to make Brent Patterson an extremely content coach.
What most Black and Gold fans likely don't know, however, is anything about the other three teams vying for the beautiful blue piece of hardware Cullman hasn't had its hands on since 2008.
See the capsules below for a guide on how Briarwood Christian, Spanish Fort and Rehobeth all joined the ’Cats in the semifinals. Cullman will head to Briarwood, and Spanish Fort will host Rehobeth/Brookwood — each three-game series is set to start next Friday — with hopes of winding up as one of the last two squads standing in Montgomery.
Third-round opponent: No. 4 Southside
Third-round scores: 3-1, 5-2
Third-round highlights: Ethan Simmons slung a two-hit complete game in the opener, and Jake Bracewell followed suit by going the distance in the clincher. Wesley Hardin hit a home run and knocked in all three of Briarwood's runs in Game 1. Jack Morris, who added a two-run single in the nightcap, captivated the home crowd by reaching over the center field fence to rob a possible home run.
Ranking: No. 1
Third-round opponent: Marbury
Third-round scores: 2-1, 9-4
Third-round highlights: One of the state's hottest baseball teams had to lean on a pair of comebacks to stick around in the playoffs. Jesse McCord (10-1) punched out 10 batters in seven innings and came through with the game-winning RBI double in the sixth inning of the opener. Will Luft moved to 7-0 after striking out seven in a 4 1/3 inning start. He also slapped three singles to help Spanish Fort overcome an early 4-0 deficit. The Toros, who topped Cullman in the 2011 title game, have only dropped one of their last 28 games. The lone loss, a 6-4 final to 6A Thompson, came on April 12.
Ranking: No. 9
Third-round opponent: Brookwood
Third-round scores: 3-1, 2-5, 3-0
Third-round highlights: Rehobeth punched its first semifinal ticket in school history after shutting out Brookwood in a decisive Game 3 on Saturday. Jordan Brown tossed all seven innings in the clincher. Trey Truitt hit the go-ahead home run, a solo shot, in the first. The Rebels took an early series lead Friday with a zany no-hitter by Seth Arroyo that included three walks and two errors. Arroyo yielded the one run on a balk in the first inning. Brookwood’s Kewayne McCray responded in the nightcap with a one-hit outing. It was just as deceiving, though, featuring six walks and four hit batters.
Ranking: No. 2
Third-round opponent: Walker
Third-round scores: 4-0, 7-0
Third-round highlights: Jesse Scott (7-2) and Auston Neal (7-1) shut down the competition with matching shutouts, combining for a sizzling 23 strikeouts and meager six hits allowed. The shutout was Cullman’s third in a row, extending the staff’s scoreless streak to 23 innings dating back to the tail end of Branch Hill’s relief appearance in Game 1 against Hartselle. Cole Collins made a couple of diving grabs in left field, Christian Martinez flashed his strong arm behind the plate and right fielder Owen Lovell gunned down a runner at home trying to score on a sacrifice fly. Collins cleared the bases with a two-strike, two-out triple in the nightcap. Lovell tied Ben Moore’s program record for doubles in a season by slugging his 28th in the opener. Kolby Robinson contributed three hits on the evening. Lance Cleveland iced Game 1 with a late two-run single.
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 138 or at email@example.com.