Semifinal Clash

Cullman’s Niklas Fondren scores during last week’s quarterfinal series against Hazel Green.

Cullman's baseball team has followed an all-too-familiar script so far this postseason.

Do the little things right, win the crucial moments, survive, advance and live to fight another day.

And, like clockwork, the Class 6A No. 7 Bearcats (26-13) are back in the state semifinals yet again.

Cullman will head to No. 8 Hueytown (34-11) on Wednesday — games are slated for 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., with a potential tiebreaker scheduled for Thursday at 4:30 p.m. — seeking to punch its ticket to the state championship series in Montgomery for the fifth time in the past six seasons.

Despite his program's recurring success, however, coach Brent Patterson is still counting his blessings.

"I don't know that it's not better now," he said of the Black and Gold's sixth straight semifinal berth. "The older you get, the more appreciative you are. The team is extremely excited. We're fortunate and thankful to be playing another week. We want to try to take advantage of that now."

Cooper Beck couldn't agree more.

The senior second baseman, who saw last year's playoff run end one win short of Montgomery, is looking to take that next step this time around.

"It's always exciting to get to play for a chance to play for a state title," Beck said. "But we're looking at this as all business. Do the little things right and come out with two victories."

The Golden Gophers won't make it easy on them.

Coach Rick Patterson's squad has eliminated Shades Valley, Buckhorn and Gardendale en route to its third semifinal appearance in four years.

According to Brent Patterson, Hueytown has looked awfully impressive in doing so.

"They’ve got a pitching staff that won’t walk you," he said. "They play good defense. Everybody that I’ve talked to says they aren’t going to beat themselves. They have hard-nosed teams. They’re very dangerous. They're probably playing with no fear and no stress and letting it all hang out."

Beck, meanwhile, likens the Golden Gophers to his own team.

"They're well-coached, their players do everything right, and they compete to the last out," he said. "They're like us. Both teams really want to go to Montgomery. It should be a fun one."

Cullman certainly has fond memories from the last time these teams met in the playoffs.

The Bearcats notched 8-1 and 4-3 victories, with Wheeler Eastman's clutch, walk-off RBI single in the ninth inning of the nightcap sending the Black and Gold to Montgomery in 2017.

Beck would love nothing more than a repeat performance.

"A sweep, of course, is great," he said. "But our goal is to get through it — whatever it takes."


No. 7 Cullman (26-13) at No. 8 Hueytown (34-11)

% What: Class 6A Semifinal

% Where: Hueytown High School

% When: Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Thursday at 4:30 p.m. (If Necessary)

% Radio: AM 1340

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

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I'm an Auburn University graduate with a passion for sports, reading and diet Mountain Dew.