Class 6A baseball semifinal Game 3 At Bill Shelton Field:
Hazel Green 1 0 0 1 3 1 0 - 6 (30-11)
Cullman 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 - 1 (33-10)
WP: Jonathan Minor
LP: Grayson Taylor
TIME OF GAME: 2:03
Hazel Green wins series 2-1
FLASH NOTES: Cullman Principal Kim Hall told the ball club before game she was ready. Hall was trying to send a positive thought wave to the Bearcats in trying to comeback from a painful loss in Game 2 Friday night on one swing of the bat by Hazel Green's Tyler Duskin.
Momentum continued to be locked in by the visitors from Madison County, who were unranked and runners-up to Athens in 6A, Area 16 play.
Hazel Green capitalized on control problems from Grayson Taylor when he walked two in the opening inning. Hunter McGriff, who drew a free pass, would score on a single by Isaiah Magwood and a 1-0 lead.
Then the Trojans started to display ability for extra base hits. Jordan Beck led off the fourth with a double and scampered home on a two-bagger by Magwood with the score now 2-0.
Cullman was handcuffed by Minor as he retired the Bearcats in order in the first and second. Walks to Carson Freeman and Dylan Wallace gave them runners on base in the third, but they could be brought in as Minor got Hayden Henderson, Cooper Beck and Weston Norton in ending the threat.
But in the fourth, the momentum changed briefly on a solo homer to left field by Will Morrison, his second of the series. It was the first hit off Minor and the Bearcats were down 2-1 going to the fifth.
Taylor gave up a one-out double to Bradley Hulin and a walk to McGriff had runners on first and second. A pitching change had been made with Peyton Colvard relieving Taylor and getting Beck to pop out to Morrison in foul territory at first base for the second out.
The chance for Cullman to get out of the inning came to a crashing halt as Garret Gustafson slammed a three-run shot over the center field fence. That lifted Hazel Green to a 5-1 advantage and momentum stayed with the Trojans the rest of the game.
Hazel Green's pitching limited the powerful Cullman bats to two hits, the homer from Morrison and a single by Taylor.
McGriff came in to relieve Minor in the sixth and set down the Bearcats the next two innings. The final out came at 4:02 p.m. on a fly ball to right center by pinch hitter Tyler Nunnelley that was caught by Magwood.
Cullman's run at being the best team in the North region in 6A baseball ended at three consecutive years. The Bearcats had reached the state semifinals for the fifth consecutive season, but are not going to Montgomery for the first time since 2013.
The Bearcats lost only one time in the regular season at Bill Shelton Field, a 5-0 shutout to 7A power Hoover on March 17. Brent Patterson's squad compiled a 13-3 record on the home diamond and had won 18 straight before the 2-1 loss on Friday night in the second game of this semifinal series.
Hazel Green will journey to Patterson Field Thursday for Game 1 of the 6A championship series against the winner of the Hillcrest/Helena series that had to go to Game 3 and was being played in Helena on Saturday evening.
Photo 1: Cullman's Carson Freeman swings at a pitch in the 3rd inning Saturday.
Photo 2: Cullman's Cooper Beck looks at an inside pitch in the 1st inning of Game 3.
Photo 3: Carson Freeman of Cullman at 3rd base in the 3rd, next to coach Brent Patterson.
Will Morrison (15) is in the on deck circle.
Sportspage photos by Johnny Thornton
AHSAA Class 6A Baseball semifinal series
At Bill Shelton Field:
Hazel Green 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 - 2
Cullman 2 1 0 0 0 2 X - 5
WP: Michael Myers
LP: Tyler Duskin
TIME OF GAME: 1:54
Cullman 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 - 1 (33-9)
Hazel Green 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 - 2 (29-11)
WP: Hunter McGriff
LP: Will Morrison
TIME OF GAME: 1:54
FLASH NOTES: Tyler Duskin, the loser for Hazel Green in the opener, extended the Trojans' season for at least one more day, when he crushed a 2-run homer in the last of the seventh of game two to defeat Cullman's ace Will Morrison and end the Bearcats' 18-gamer winning streak.
Home runs were pivotal in both games. It was Morrison who belted a two-run shot in the bottom of the sixth in game one that gave the 'Cats a three-run advantage heading to the final inning.
Michael Myers allowed a one-out single in the seventh, then retired the final two batters to put Cullman on the course of another trip to Montgomery for the AHSAA championship series.
Morrison did his best to close it out, but three errors spelled doom for the Bearcats in the Hazel Green half of the seventh.
Morrison had one error in the inning, but erased it when he was able to turn around and pick off Garrett Gustafson at second base. Cooper Beck took the throw and applied the tag for out number two.
But the inning went on when Chandler Hardin's grounder at third was mishandled, allowing him to reach.
Duskin, the DH in the nightcap, responded when he took Morrison's 1-1 pitch and hit the scoreboard outside the right field fence to end the thriller at 8:51 p.m.
Both games lasted an hour and 54 minutes.
This sends the series to a tiebreaker, with game three set for 2:00 p.m. Saturday at Bill Shelton Field.
Morrison was a spotlight in the opener with a run-scoring single in the first, then his two-run homer in the sixth.
Cullman's other run in the first was a single by Brennan Norton with two outs against the left hander Duskin.
Hazel Green's Jordan Beck cracked a home run over the left field fence off Myers in the fourth to get the Trojans on the scoreboard.
A key play for Cullman in the sixth was retiring McGriff for the first out before Beck stepped to the plate. Beck sent Myers' first pitch over the right field fence and closed the margin to 3-2.
Cullman had two outs in its side of the sixth when Weston Norton got a walk to extend the inning and allow Morrison to bat. Morrison did what was needed for insurance run with the Bearcats moving their winning streak to 18 games when the opener ended at 6:23 p.m.
In game two, Cullman's lone run was due to great baserunning by Dylan Wallace. Wallace had a one-out single and went to second on Hayden Henderson's infield hit.
Cooper Beck followed with a deep groundout at short as he was out on a close play. Wallace was running on the pitch, got to third and never stopped as he beat the throw to home for a 1-0 Cullman lead.
Morrison pitched effectively in the game, striking out seven batters until the errors in the seventh were enough to prevent a Cullman celebration and create momentum for the Trojans heading into Saturday.
This is the first time in the playoffs Cullman is going to a game with someone else other than Myers and Morrison to go to work for Brent Patterson's squad.
Peyton Colvard is a possible choice, but has not been on the mound since mid April, when he relieved Morrison and got a 7-4 win against Collierville, Tennessee.
Hazel Green was taken into a three-game series in round one when they won it at Oxford in the tiebreaker.
The Trojans then swept Austin and Hueytown entering the semifinal round. Cullman took down Hartselle, Pell City and Homewood in sweeps, getting home field for the semifinal round.
Photo 1: Michael Myers pitches in 1st inning. The shortstop is #20 Grayson Taylor
Photo 2: Cullman's Brady Patterson holds a runner on in 1st inning of Game 1.
Photo 3: Cullman's Cooper Beck waiting to hit in 1st inning of Game 1 Friday.
Sportspage photos by Johnny Thornton
Spring practice for the first week at Cullman High School under new coach Matt Plunkett concluded Thursday evening with a controlled scrimmage at Oliver Woodard Stadium.
Plunkett put two groups together of offense vs. defense, going through a variety of formations in moving forward with the 2018 season just over three months away.
Plunkett was hired by the administration in January, replacing Mark Britton who retired after 17 seasons, upon learning he had cancer. Britton reportedly is doing fine since his treatment with Plunkett grateful to see this time of the year arrive for 10 days of workouts in full pads.
Cullman is not playing in a spring jamboree. The Bearcats will either conclude their workouts next week or will end it on May 21, pending on the outcome of the baseball team. Cullman's baseball squad plays Hazel Green Friday and if needed Saturday, in the 6A semifinals at Bill Shelton Field.
Sportspage analyzed approximately 40 minutes of the scrimmage as the offense worked on drives from 20 yards, 40 yards and 60 yards.
Several individuals made their impact on both sides of the ball, with the black team scoring on a touchdown pass and the white team answering by running the ball into the end zone.
The defense was able to make some penetration, dropping ball carriers behind the line and getting pressure on the quarterbacks. The QBS were wearing green jerseys in a situation that they were not to be part of direct contact.
The Bearcats lost 27 seniors off the 2017 squad that was 7-3 in the regular season, 4-2 in 6A, Region 7. Cullman was shut out in the first round of the playoffs to Ramsay 14-0 in Birmingham on November 10.
Plunkett's first season with the Bearcats will have them competing in Region 7 with Athens, Columbia, Decatur, Hartselle and Muscle Shoals. Cullman will play Jasper, Mortimer Jordan, Albertville, Hueytown and Fort Payne in non-regional games.
The season will open on Thursday, August 23 at Woodard Stadium vs. Jasper (formerly Walker High School).
Cullman's regional opener will come September 7 at Ogle Stadium vs. Decatur. The Bearcats will be playing on a new surface that has been installed at Decatur.
Cullman has been a regular participant to the AHSAA playoffs in 16 of the last 18 years. The only time they missed out in this span were in 2004 and 2014.
Cullman has a total of 147 victories and 66 losses since the 2000 season. A total of 134 were claimed under the leadership of Britton.
Photo 1: Cullman coach Matt Plunkett going from station to station in a pregame drill.
Sportspage photos by Johnny Thornton
AHSAA Class 6A quarterfinals
At Homewood High School:
Cullman defeats Homewood 8-1, 6-1 (Cullman wins series 2-0)
FLASH NOTES: Cullman was ready to visit Homewood in completing its third consecutive playoff sweep, putting itself in a position to host a semifinal series at Bill Shelton Field next weekend.
Cullman parlayed five runs in the third inning of the opener that supported the fine effort on the mound by Michael Myers. Myers threw a complete game to go 3-0 in the postseason.
Brennan Norton delivered a bases clearing double in the third that broke the game open.
Ace righthander Will Morrison took to the mound in the nightcap and stayed in his pitching groove. Morrison allowed a run in the fifth, but held the Patriots to four hits and a game high 10 strikeouts.
Cullman got a 3-0 lead in the first on a two-run triple by Grayson Taylor, who scored when the ball thrown to third sailed into the dugout.
Taylor struck a major blow against the Patriots with a two-run blast in the Cullman third and the lead was now 5-0.
Cullman has posted 17 consecutive victories and has been victorious in 26 of its last 29 games.
A 32-8 record is what Brent Patterson's Bearcats have with a semifinal waiting for them against Hazel Green on May 11 for a twinbill and an if needed game on May 12.
Hazel Green won at Hueytown 5-4 in the opener and claimed the nightcap by the score of 6-0.
The Bearcats have earned their fifth consecutive berth to the AHSAA semifinals.
Homewood finishes the season 29-11.
Photo of Game 1 between Cullman & Homewood Friday, courtesy of AL.com