Two of the hotter baseball teams on the Gulf Coast battled through three 1-run games this weekend in the Class 7A playoffs.
When the dust settled, upstart Alma Bryant was still standing.
The Hurricanes rode a seven-run fourth inning to a big lead Saturday at Fairhope and held off a late Pirate charge to win 10-9 in Game 3 of their first-round series.
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Bryant (20-16) advances to play reigning state champ Auburn at Auburn in a best-of-3 series next weekend.
“This is huge,” Hurricanes coach Brian Ladnier said. “It’s huge for our school, huge for our team. We had a couple of years of COVID where we weren’t able to get to the playoffs. We have six seniors on this team. They all start. They all contribute, so this was big.”
Alma Bryant won the series opener Friday night 3-2. Fairhope (23-17) bounced back to even the series with a 6-5 win in the nightcap.
Saturday’s Game 3 quickly became a battle of the bullpens. Both teams had big innings early. The Pirates batted around and scored 6 runs in the second to take a 6-3 lead. Alma Bryant took control in the fourth by sending 10 batters to the plate. The first seven batters all scored before Fairhope got the first out.
The Pirates used four pitchers in the frame and trailed 10-6 when it was over.
“The (strike) zone was pretty tight for both teams, and they adapted better than we did,” Fairhope coach Stu Fuller said. “I was proud of our kids. They battled their guts out and gave us a chance at the end.”
Fairhope closed the gap to 10-8 in the fifth on RBI singles by Harrison Sparks and Brooks Brasfield and sliced the margin again in the sixth on Nolan Phillips’ RBI double off the wall. Bryant led 10-9 heading to the seventh.
“It was a tough series that came all the way down to the wire,” Ladnier said.
Fairhope made three spectacular defensive plays in the top of the seventh to keep the game within reach. After the first two Alma Bryant batters reached, relief pitcher Ben Moseley gunned the lead runner down at third on a sacrifice attempt. Jacob Markris then made two game-saving grabs in centerfield to send the game to the bottom of the inning.
“Jay Markris had a great weekend,” Fuller said. “He made a play over by the fence last night and doubled up a guy to hold the lead and made another great play to end the ball game. He had a fantastic weekend.
“The field is hard and quick. I don’t know if we played defense like we have all year, but I’m proud of how they adapted and how hard they played. We got behind and came back and got behind again, and there was no doubt in my mind we would fight back again.”
With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Moseley singled and went to second on a throwing error. He represented the tying run at third with No. 2 hitter Hollan Brock up and two out. Brock ripped a line drive to center, but Bryant’s Carson English sprinted in to make the catch for the game’s final out.
“Hollan squared that ball up and, if it is 10 or 15 feet either way, we are probably still playing,” Fuller said. “They (Bryant) have gotten so much better from the first time we played them. That’s a tribute to their coaching staff. Our guys have, too. These were two of the hotter teams in Mobile and Baldwin Counties.”
Unsung hero: Both teams were looking for any pitcher to settle down the opposing offense. Fairhope used 5. Alma Bryant used 3. It was Kale Siker who came in for the Hurricanes and pitched 4 innings. He scattered 7 hits and gave up 3 runs, but he kept his team in front. Sean Miller pitched the final 1.1 to earn the save.
Leading hitters: Alma Bryant – Dylan Bradley 2-for-3 with an RBI and scored 3 runs. Tanner Ewing scored 2-for-5 with 2 RBIs and a run. Brandon Woodham drove in 3. Miles Harbison was 2-for-3 with a 2-run double. fairhope Phillips was 4-for-4 with 3 RBIs and scored 2 runs. Jackson Hatcher, Sparks and Moseley each had 2 hits.
they said it:
“We got a couple of key walks and got to their pen early. I thought that was key. Anytime you get to your 7th and 8th pitchers in Game 3, you have to be prepared to score 10 runs or so. We got some walks and some timely hits and had a big inning, which we had to have there.” – Ladnier.
“He’s moved all around in our rotation. He was a starter early. He was our No. 2. We found he comes out of the pen pretty good. We thought we had a couple of good arms left, and it was just a matter of when we needed to get them in there.” – Ladnier on relief pitcher Kale Siker.
“At the beginning of the year, we got off to a slow start. We didn’t have a lot of experience. But we had a great April – the best one we’ve had in years. I’m proud of how the guys battled all year. They just continued to get better.” – Fuller.