Prep Baseball State Championship Bearcats fall short in bid for state title | CullmanSense

Prep Baseball State Championship

Bearcats fall short in bid for state title

Johnny Thornton

The Bearcats gather around their runner-up trophy after the game.

MONTGOMERY - Their ball club came through the entire season hitting well and pitching solidly, but that formula didn't hold for the Cullman Bearcats Friday in the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) 6A baseball championship series.

Cullman entered the segment at Riverwalk Stadium with a .342 team batting average, with five regulars batters hitting better than .300 per game, but the hitting attack never materialized, putting extra pressure on the pitching side to carry the load.

Helena capitalized and took home its first state championship, winning game two by a 3-2 score and the tiebreaker 5-4.

The No. 1 ranked Bearcats hit well in Thursday's 9-1 win against the No. 2 ranked Huskies. But it was a different story when the series shifted from Paterson Field to Riverwalk Stadium, the ball park that is home to the Montgomery Biscuits of the Southern League.

Cullman managed to lead both games on Friday. But the leads didn't last; there just wasn't enough hitting when situations called for it.

The Bearcats collected five hits for the two games, suffering 11 strikeouts at the hands of Troy Cordrey and Landon Green. Cordrey was the winner in game one with Green getting the victory in the afternoon affair.

Cullman never gave up the fight to take home the title. In the finale, the Bearcats took advantage of three hit batsman in the seventh, making a run to come from a 5-1 deficit and close it to 5-4 with Carter Bowen in the batter's box with a chance to be the hero and compile one of the greatest comebacks ever in an AHSAA championship game.

Bowen took a 3-2 pitch off Brooks Brophy deep to left field, but not deep enough, Nick Ragsdale made the catch and Helena celebrated winning its first state crown, not Cullman coming home with its fifth.

"I am proud of my guys," coach Brent Patterson said following the game. "I wouldn't trade anything, except the outcome. I couldn't ask for any more."

Cullman got the lead at 1-0 in the first on a double steal as Owen Lovell took off for second, with the throw from the catcher sailing high. Hayden Henderson, running at third, broke home on a delay and the Bearcats were on top.

Helena took advantage of a Cullman fielding error to tie the game in the fourth. The Huskies then broke through with a four-run fifth, starting with three consecutive singles. A ground ball at short sailed wide of home plate with two runs scored.

A passed ball produced a third run and a sacrifice fly scored the final run of the inning. Helena was in the lead at 5-1.

Kade Williams relieved Thomas and ran damage control by keeping Helena scoreless for the sixth and seventh, allowing the Bearcats to make the final inning memorable. The 'Cats never showed signs of giving in to the upstart Huskies.

In the first game, Cullman got a 2-0 lead when Carter Bowen singled in Noah Fondren and Levi Thomas in the fourth inning. Bowen was thrown out, trying to stretch the hit to a double.

Helena answered with a run in the bottom of the fourth as Nash Adams had a fielder's choice at second, scoring Jake Busby, who led off with a double. That was the first hit allowed in the game by the Bearcats' Will Morrison.

In the Cullman fifth, the Bearcats got Trent Price and Wheeler Eastman on with a single and an error. But Cordrey retired Caleb Lipsey by a fly out, Grayson Taylor on a strike out and Fondren on a check swing grounder to second. That would come back and haunt the Bearcats.

Adams hit a 0-2 pitch off Morrison in the sixth for a double into right-center that scored Sam Praytor and tied the game at 2-2.

Helena got the win in the seventh with a lead-off double by Ragsdale, a sacrifice by Braylon Moss sending Ragsdale to third. Bowen relieved Morrison with Colton Hood pinch hitting for Trevor Bell.

Hood's grounder was not handled properly at second as Ragsdale scampered home to send the championship series to a tiebreaker.

The game was played in an hour and 40 minutes.

Cordrey was selected the MVP for Helena. He produced a run batted in during the finale to go with his winning performance on the mound in the first game.

Cullman completes the season at 38-9, finishing second in Class 6A for the second straight year. Helena ends with 38 victories against six losses. The Huskies beat last year's state champions, Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa, in the semifinals to get to Montgomery, where they went to work and pulled off comeback victories over a Cullman team that no-hit the Huskies 5-0 in early March in a tournament game in the Huntsville area.
 

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