Eagles dethrone champs; to face Cubs
by Lori Tippets
In the final game of the first round of Class 4A playoffs, the fans couldn’t have asked for a better contest as Jacksonville defeated defending state champion Guntersville 3-2 to move on to the second round of playoffs in Class 4A baseball competition.

The Eagles will travel to play in a double-header against a familiar foe, Alexandria’s Valley Cubs, on Friday night, and will play game three if necessary on Saturday.

After splitting a double-header on Friday, 12-1, 1-6, the Eagles knew that everything was on the line in Saturday’s game; win, go on; lose, go home.

In a game that was filled with excellent plays and good pitching, the intangibles also took over as questionable calls and fiery tempers took center stage.

With the game deadlocked at 2-2 going into the bottom of the seventh, the Eagles chipped away bit by bit for the win.

Shed Long started the inning off with a single to right field. Jackson Bell beat out a bunt and Sid Thurmond drew an intentional walk to load the bases. Chance Marbut confidently strolled to the plate, and without even swinging the bat won the game for the Eagles when the pitch hit him squarely in the back. Long crossed the plate for the win and the Eagle celebration began.

Jacksonville scored first in the bottom half of the second inning. Thurmond hit a single to right, and Marbut bunted safely to put two men on. A single to right field by Jared Tippets brought in Thurmond for the first run of the game.

Guntersville came right back with a run of their own in the third to tie up the game.

The score remained tied until the top of the fifth when the Wildcats were able to produce another run.

In the bottom half of the fifth inning bedlam broke loose. Long hit a single, stole second and moved to third on a fielder’s choice. Tanner Sims came to the plate for the Eagles and hit a long fly ball to deep centerfield that on any other day would have easily cleared the fence. With the wind blowing in, the ball stayed in play. Guntersville’s centerfielder ran back and dove for the ball, making a spectacular catch.

Long came in from third to tie up the game but Guntersville threw the ball to third and Long was called out for not tagging up.

Eagle Head Coach David Deerman, obviously upset over the play, appealed the call to the plate umpire. After a lengthy debate by the three umpires Long was called safe, triggering an explosion from the bench of the Guntersville players and resulting in the Guntersville coach being restricted to his dugout.

The call was an obvious game changer for whichever team was the recipient of the umpire’s decision.

With the scored tied, Thurmond, who came on in the fifth inning with the score tied 1-1, performed some magic on the mound for the Eagles. In the top of the seventh, Guntersville loaded the bases with only one out. Thurmond, only a sophomore, appeared calm and confident on the mound and simply overpowered the next two Wildcat batters, striking them both out.

Jacksonville then loaded the bases for Marbut’s game winning RBI after getting hit by the pitch.

For Jacksonville, Tippets, Marbut, Bell and Long each had two hits and Payton Sims, Thurmond and Nate Whaley each had a hit in the game.

Payton Sims started off on the mound for Jacksonville pitching 5 1/3 innings giving up five hits while striking out three and walking two.

Thurmond in picking up the win pitched 2 2/3innings giving up one hit, two walks while striking out four.

Coach Deerman said there were several turning points in the game. “There was some adversity that happened but I’m proud of our kids because they kept their composure and didn’t let that get the best of them and didn’t let their emotions get the best of them. They played right through it.

“We had some key hits in key situations, put bunts down to move runners. We just battled them. We could have given up. Right there at the end they had the bases loaded and one hit could have changed the game Thurmond pitched well at the end and Long had some big blocks (catcher) and we just made plays when we had to.

Jacksonville was all over Guntersville in game one on Friday. The Eagles scored three runs in the first, five in the second and four in the third inning for a 12-0 lead before Guntersville finally got on the board in the bottom of the third for their only run of the game.

A double by Jackson Bell with the bases loaded produced three runs and a two-run homerun by Tanner Sims highlighted the eight run second inning.

Long pitched an excellent game for Jacksonville allowing six hits while striking out six in five innings.

Sims ended the game with a homerun and single, Bell had a double and single and Thurmond had two singles. Long added a double, and Payton Sims a single.

Game two found the Eagles unable to muster any offense. Jacksonville managed any three hits, two by Jared Tippets and one by Long.

Both teams scored in the first inning but then the Eagles were held scoreless for the next six innings. The Wildcats went on to a 6-1 win.
© 2013