Sparkman dominates Hillcrest; state baseball championship nextPublished 7:42pm Friday, May 9, 2014
HARVEST- Sparkman left no doubt on Friday as to who the top baseball team is in North Alabama. In the North Region title game they won two games over Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa by scores of 9-0 and 3-1. They will now play for the school’s first ever baseball championship next Friday and Saturday in Montgomery. Their opponent will be either Spain Park or Baker.
Sparkman, a #2 seed, has gotten stronger as the playoffs have progressed with series wins over Decatur, Hazel Green, Mountain Brook and Hillcrest, all #1 seeds in their respective areas.
Sparkman is led by a group of nine seniors who all contribute.
“This is a group whose will was really strong and their focus was on one thing to do the best job they could and so far they have done that and I am so proud of these guys,” Sparkman coach Kellen Greer said after the game two win.
Like he had done in previous series’, sophomore Brock Anderson took the ball in game 1 and got Sparkman a win in game one. He pitched a complete game shutout and allowed only five hits. Four of the hits were to Alabama football signee Keith Holcombe.
He got plenty of run support and Sparkman left runners on in the sixth that would have ended the game under the mercy rule with one more run. Sparkman led 3-0 before breaking it open with four in the fifth and two in the sixth. Jarrod Howell and Anderson had run-scoring doubles in the four run fifth.
“He is resilient, a competitor who pounds the strike zone and gives us a great opportunity to win and he did it offensively as well to give us room to work,” Greer said of Anderson.
Anderson got out of a two on and one out jam in the fifth by striking out Lee Clark and JC Frederick.
Teams from Birmingham and South Alabama have dominated baseball in recent years. Huntsville won a title in 2011, the only team from North Alabama to win a championship in over 20 years.
Anderson said playing well and winning against Birmingham team “feels good. We are trying to keep it in our area. We have the best area in the state. I believed our team could do this all year ”
He said the turning point was winning two against Bob Jones just to get in the playoffs. The Senators had to win two straight to get past Decatur after a game one loss. They also won deciding games against Hazel Green and Mountain Brook.
In game two, Anderson, Jarrod Howell, and AC D’Antonio scored the runs. Connor Stokes had two singles and a double and knocked in all three runs.
Chris Merkel pitched a complete game for Sparkman. He bounced back strong from a loss to Mountain Brook. He had great control, issued no walks and got a bunch of ground ball outs. He ended the game with a strikeout.
“He’s been good all year and we felt the matchup was really good against them,” Greer said. “He pounded the strike zone and made some quality pitches in big-time situations to help us out. We just rode his back for seven innings.”
Greer had two other hot pitchers ready if he had needed them for game three. Scott Windsor and Breonn Pooler had pitched deciding game wins over Mountain Brook and Hazel Green respectively.
Next week in Montgomery will have a decidedly Sparkman feel with the baseball team going. The softball team is one win away from clinching a berth in the state softball championship. One baseball fan who was there to congratulate the players and coaches was Madison County Schools Superintendent, Dr David Copeland. Copeland was in attendance at all Sparkman home playoff games and said he will be there in Montgomery next week.