The Hartselle Tigers are the 6A North Champs after defeating Oxford 2-1 in their three-game series. Enquirer photo by Jim Meadows

Top-ranked Tigers heading to championship series

The top-ranked Hartselle Tigers will play in the 6A state championship series for the third time in four seasons after defeating Oxford 2-1 in their three-game series last week.

After dropping game one 10-0, the Tigers responded with a 5-3 win in game two and then a 4-1 win in game three to punch their state championship series ticket, where they will face unranked Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa in a three-game series that starts on Thursday.

“I know I say this every week, but I am so proud of these kids on our team,” Hartselle coach Jake Miles said. “They are relentless and continue to amaze me. I know most thought we were finished after game one, but our senior guys got together and found a way to make it happen again. They just compete with every single pitch. I have never been around a group of kids who fight their hearts out for each other. There is no selfishness or blaming. Just true genuine care and excitement for others.”

Game one: Oxford 10, Hartselle 1

The Tigers fell behind 2-0 in the bottom of the first and couldn’t recover in their 10-0 loss to no. two Oxford in game one of their series. Hartselle was held to four hits in the loss. Brody Leathers, Cade Miles, Lawson Williams and Asher Doepel each had a hit. Jace Meadows took the loss after allowing six runs on three hits while striking out three in one inning.

Game two: Hartselle 5, Oxford 3

In game two, Hartselle was in a win-or-go-home situation. They opened the game with two runs in the bottom of the first to go up 2-0. Oxford scored twice in the top of the third and another in the top of the fourth to lead 3-2. With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, The Tigers retook the lead with a two-run home run by Cade Miles, plating Leathers. Hartselle added an insurance run when Peyton Steele’s single plated Jo Williamson. Oxford tried to rally in the top of the seventh when they got two runners on base, but Andrew Coleman shut down the rally with two strikeouts.

Williamson led Hartselle with two hits and two runs scored, while Steele added two hits and an RBI. Cade Miles had a hit with two RBIs and two runs scored.

Nick Chumley picked up the win after allowing three runs on seven hits in 6.1 innings of work. Coleman earned the save in relief of Chumley.

“Nick Chumley was unbelievable on the mound, and then Cade’s big two-run homer helped give us the shot in the arm we needed,” Miles said. “We didn’t play exceptionally well, so finding a way to win in an elimination game and not playing well gave us confidence for the next day.”

Game three: Hartselle 4, Oxford 1

The Tigers plated a run in the top of the first when Williamson’s single drove home Doepel. Oxford then scored a run in the bottom of the first to tie the game at 1-1. Hartselle added a run in the top of the third when Doepel scored on Williams’ sac fly. Cole Miles scored the Tigers’ third run in the top of the sixth on an error by the Yellow Jackets. Hartselle added a fourth and final run in the top of the seventh when Williamson scored on another Oxford error to get the 4-1 win.

Landon Blackwood pitched a complete game, allowing one run on two hits in seven innings while striking out seven.

“You can’t talk about game three without starting and ending with Landon Blackwood,” Miles said. “I am so proud of that young man. He is such a competitor and has had some bad luck with injuries, so watching him give that performance was unreal.”

Cole Miles led Hartselle with two hits, including a double and a run scored. Williamson also had two hits, an RBI and a run scored. Doepel scored two runs.

Williamson had some big hits to get us started, and then Cole Miles had a big two-out double, eventually scoring on Asher’s competitive at-bat. Williamson has been so good all season and postseason. He just keeps barreling balls hard each and every at-bat.

Hartselle (32-9) will face Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa (30-12) in a three-game series beginning Thursday at 11 am. Games two and three will be at Jacksonville State University on Friday at 10 a.m.

“We know Hillcrest is excellent and has a great program,” Miles said. “We have a tremendous amount of respect for them, but we will continue to focus on us and try to be the best version of us we can be. That’s the only thing we can control, and we must attack every day with the right attitude and effort to be our best when that time comes.”

The Tigers are looking to add another state championship to their resume. They have won nine state championships since 1990.

“To be honest, we never really set out to win the state championship at the start of the year,” Miles said. “We just wanted to get better each day and be able to help others get better. These guys have done a great job of maintaining focus and dealing with the pressures that come our way.”


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