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Hartselle ousts rival Cullman

By By Todd Thompson, Hartselle Enquirer
Luke Bole and Chad Girodo have been doing everything they’ve been asked to do every time they take the mound for the Hartselle Tigers this season. And nothing changed Friday when Hartselle dispatched the pesky Bearcats Friday in front of a capacity crowd at Reuben Sims Field with 2-1 and 5-0 wins in the Class 5A state semifinals.
The two pitched a pair of gems, the Tigers got some clutch hits and took advantage of some Cullman errors to sweep their biggest rivals and send a message to the rest of the state: Hartselle is on a state championship mission once again.
The meeting between the two teams was the fourth straight time the Tigers and Bearcats tangled in the semifinals. But the series has belonged to Cullman in recent years, including the last two when the Bearcats ended the season for Hartselle and went on to claim state championships.
It seems like old times now. Hartselle stands just two wins from another championship ring after dominating the power-hitting Bearcats.
Hartselle improved to 48-8 overall with the two wins, tying a state record set by Cullman two years ago. The wins also gave the Tigers a 21-0 mark at home.
Of course, pitching didn’t hurt. Hartselle got two amazing pitching performances from Mississippi State signees Bole and Girodo, who have won 27 games between them.
The Tigers will be seeking their seventh state championship when they hit the field in Montgomery and first since the 2000 season. Hartselle and Briarwood Christian were scheduled to meet Wednesday for a single game at Paterson Field, while the two would wrap up the 5A series with games tonight at Riverwalk Stadium.
The first game will be at 4 p.m., with a third and deciding game to be played at 7 p.m. if needed.
But even on the state’s biggest stage, it will be hard to overcome the Tigers’ performance in the semifinals against No. 1 ranked Cullman.
Bole and Bryson went toe-to-toe in the opening game in a classic pitcher’s battle.
Bole allowed just three hits over the final four innings in the opener.
Hartselle managed just four hits in the win, scoring its only two runs in the second inning with the help of a Cullman error. Josh Doyle walked and scored on a throwing error. Ryan Joy singled in the winning run.
Cullman, the team that had hit eight homers in a quarterfinal win over McAdory just a day earlier, had just six baserunners in the final five innings against Bole. But the senior lefty dominated with 10 strikeouts.
Cullman got a pair of singles in the seventh with two outs, but Bole ended the game when he got Moore to ground out to third.
David Reeves singled twice for Hartselle. Bole and Joy had the Tigers’ two other hits.
Hartselle appeared ready to break the game open in the fifth inning when the Tigers loaded the bases with three walks from Bryson. But the Cullman pitcher got out of the jam with a strikeout and a fly to center.
So when Girodo took the mound in the second game, he was more than willing to help the Tigers deliver the knockout punch.
Girodo struck out eight in the second game and was perfect through four innings as Hartselle posted a 5-0 advantage that was more than enough for the Tigers. He allowed just two hits to earn his 16th victory of the season.
Cullman loaded the bases in the seventh inning, but by then the Tigers’ victory party had already started. It hit high gear when Girodo got the final out sending players and fans into a celebration near the mound.
Hartselle scored all the runs Girodo would need in the top of the second inning with three straight hits off Cullman starter Chase Mallard. Josh Doyle and David Reeves both had two-out singles and Walton Ashwander stroked a two-run double to right that gave the Tigers a 2-0 advantage.
Garrett Turrentine added an RBI single an inning later and Joy hit his 13th homer of the season in the fifth inning to chase Mallard from the mound.
Turrentine added his second RBI of the night in the fifth inning when he drove a pitch to the fence in right to score Zach Waddell.
Cullman had just two runners in the fifth and sixth innings before the Bearcats looked ready to finally do some damage in the seventh. But Girodo, battling from cramps, closed the door and started the celebration.