Pitching duel key in opener
By By Todd Thompson, Hartselle Enquirer
MONTGOMERY - The Class 5A state championship opened with a matchup for the ages: No. 1 versus No. 1, a battle between future teammates.
Round one, featuring one of the top pitching matchups of the high school season, went to Briarwood Christian.
Briarwood Christian senior Ben Bracewell had just enough left in the tank to put Hartselle against the wall after dominating the Tigers in the opening game.
Bracewell, who will play with Hartselle’s Luke Bole and Chad Girodo next season, put the Tigers in the hole early with a three-hit 2-0 victory in the opening game of the Class 5A state championship series at Paterson Field on Wednesday.
The loss ended Hartselle’s eight-game playoff winning streak - and a 14-game streak that carried back to the regular season - and meant the Tigers would have to take the championship series to three game to win the title.
Briarwood took advantage of two Hartselle errors to beat the second-ranked Tigers.
Bole and Bracewell were overpowering on the mound. Bole allowed just one infield single on a play that was also given an error on a bad throw. He finished with seven strikeouts, but dropped to 11-4 overall with the loss.
Bracewell allowed just three scratch hits on the way to the win, but the Lions’ star felt that his performance was overshadowed by Bole.
Both of Briarwood’s runs against Bole were unearned. The Lions took advantage of a throwing error in the first inning to take a 1-0 lead, then scored the winning run in the fourth when Evan Simmons stole third and came home on a throwing error.
But Hall wasn’t sure the lead would hold up against the second-ranked Tigers.
Bracewell improved to 15-0 with the win.
Bracewell admitted after the game that he was pitching on raw emotion after the fourth inning. After throwing seven innings in the Lions’ semifinal series five days earlier, he felt his fastball lost its power after the fourth inning.
Hartselle had a chance to tie the game when Bole came to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning with runners at first and third.
Josh Doyle led off with a single and scored on a sacrifice fly by Walton Ashwander.
David Reeves was walked and reached third before Bracewell had to face Bole one final time as high school players.
After running the count to 3-2, Bracewell ended the game when he snuck a pitch past his future teammate.