CULLMAN - According to Cullman baseball coach Brent Patterson, the Bearcats executed their game plan the way he was hoping Saturday afternoon.
The end result was an 8-1 domination of arch rival Hartselle at Bill Shelton Field. This was the Bearcats' first game in seven days after a trip to Georgia last weekend.
"We had a good week offensively," Patterson said afterwards.
Cullman spent a lot of time in the batting cage and got on the field for a workout last Wednesday, following a series of cold and damp days in the area.
Cullman crushed Hartselle with a seven-run first inning on seven hits, sending starter Garrett Stevenson to the dugout after getting just two hits and allowing four consecutive hits to end his assignment.
The Bearcats began the frame with Noah Fondren hitting a single and moving to second on a sacrifice bunt by Levi Thomas.
Owen Lovell stepped up and doubled to drive in Fondren. A single by Jacob Heatherly and a walk to Carter Bowen had the bases loaded.
Stevenson retired Wheeler Eastman on a strikeout, then surrendered a two-run single to Caleb Lipsey, a run-scoring single from Trent Price, a two-run double by Grayson Taylor and an RBI single by Fondren with his second plate appearance of the inning.
Add three good innings by Lovell on the mound and the Bearcats were on their way to earning their 12th victory of the season against three losses.
Patterson planned to use several pitchers for this game, getting his rotation set for the start of the new week when the Bearcats open 6A, Area 14 play with Fort Payne. Cullman travels there on Monday and has the Wildcats visiting Bill Shelton Field for a twinbill Tuesday at 5 p.m.
Chayton Grimmett relieved Lovell in the fourth, giving up a single to Conner Burks and a walk to Austin Parker to give Hartselle a little bit of life in trying to mount a comeback.
The inning ended when Garrett Wade flied to center with Cullman holding on to its seven-run advantage.
The Tigers got their lone run in the fifth against Grimmett, as he allowed two singles and hit Matt James to get the bases loaded with one out. Kade Williams stepped on the mound and had great help from Price at first base.
Price got to Riley Wood's grounder down the first base line and made a swipe tag to get him out. A run did score, but Hartselle's momentum was shut down.
Burks grounded to Price who beat him to first base and the inning was over with the Bearcats on top 7-1.
The final run for the Bearcats crossed home in the sixth on a one-out single by Ben Smith, scoring pinch runner Michael Myers.
Cullman had three hits in the fifth, getting runners on for the first time since they exploded for seven in the first.
Will Morrison went to work for the 'Cats on the mound in the sixth and was aided by a 5-4-3 double play after he allowed Brady Netherton to begin the inning with a single.
Heatherly got his chance to throw in the seventh. It began with Charlie Orr getting hit by a pitch, then Orr was erased on a 1-6-3 double play off the bat of Grayson Bray to end the game in one hour and 49 minutes.
Cullman produced 10 hits on the afternoon with Fondren having two singles, along with a run batted in and a run scored from the lead-off position.
This was the first time the Bearcats played after being rated no. 1 in the first release of the state 6A baseball poll on Wednesday. Hartselle came in as no. 7 and won five of their last six games before getting controlled by the Bearcats on an afternoon that had sunshine, temperature in the low 70s and not an empty seat on the bleachers at Bill Shelton Field on either side.
"We are making strides," Patterson said. "I felt over and over little things would come to us. It's nice to see the fruits of labor come together."
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