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Tigers split Games 1, 2 with Cullman

Hartselle and Cullman have played six games this season with the Tigers winning three and the Bearcats winning three.

Now, the two rivals will play each other for the right to play Muscle Shoals May 4-5 in the third round of the playoffs.

The decisive game three has been set for Saturday at 5 p.m. at Cullman High School.

Hartselle coach William Booth is glad the Tigers are playing on Saturday, but he still wished the Tigers could have finished the second-round series sweep of rival Cullman Friday night.

“We’re satisfied that we get to play tomorrow,” Booth said.

In the first game, Colby Nelson (4-3) and Todd Gibson (4-4) combined get the 6-4 win on the mound. Nelson pitched four innings allowing just two hits, two earned runs and a walk with a strikeout. Gibson was equally good in his three innings, allowing two hits, two earned runs and two walks with six strikeouts.

Chris Brown was the star of the first game, going 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs. Brett Blackwood also went 2-for-4 with a double. Kaleb Jones also had two RBIs with one base hit.

The game got heated in the sixth inning when Hartselle was leading 5-4 and had the bases loaded. Colton Ord hit a ground ball and the Cullman fielder decided to throw home to get Gillespie out at home. The umpire initially called Gillespie safe at the plate, but he reversed his call after only talking with Cullman’s coach and not with another umpire.

The call drew the ire of the Hartselle fans and assistant coach Jerry Childers, who argued with the home plate umpire. Childers was initially tossed by the umpire, but then was allowed to remain in the dugout instead of having to leave the field.

However, the Tigers still got an insurance run in the seventh. Gilliespie reached on an error in the seventh inning, which allowed a run to score.

A couple of errors made it interesting in the bottom of the seventh, but Gibson recorded a strikeout to end the game.

In the second game, Hartselle faced Cullman’s ace Keegan Thompson, who had allowed only two hits in his last outing with the Tigers. This time, Hartselle had more success.

“I thought we hit (Cullman ace) Keegan (Thompson) well, but we just didn’t take advantage of our opportunities in the second game,” Booth said.

The Tigers got four hits in the nightcap and also got runners on base with a walk and a catcher error on a third strike. They even had several opportunities with runners in scoring position.

After Zac Crocker’s RBI single gave Cullman its first run in the third inning, Hartselle’s Will Swann went to first base on a dropped third strike. Deacon Aldridge reached on a rare walk from Thompson.

Ord then brought in Swann’s runner, Ryan Brown, from third base with a bunt single on a one-out squeeze play.

The Tigers then had chances to add to the lead. Austin Spangler got a leadoff double down the left field line in the fourth inning and Aldridge got a one-out triple in the fifth.

However, Thompson always got a strikeout when he needed it most. He finished with 15 for the night including 10 of the last 12 batters. And both of those opportunities faded away.

All the while, Hartselle’s Tillman Landers pitched an outstanding game of his own. He went just over six innings allowing just six hits and three walks, but he started to run out of gas in the seventh inning, as Cullman loaded the bases.

But after that pitching change, Crocker had a 2 RBI hit to give Cullman the lead for good. Thompson then struck out the side to get the win.