Holding a slim one-run lead as they came to bat in the home half of the sixth inning, the Cleburne County Tigers sent 11 batters to the plate, scored nine times and earned a 15-5 mercy-rule win over visiting Randolph County Tuesday in a battle of Tigers. Cleburne County had six hits and benefitted from a hit batsman and two Randolph County errors in the big inning. Cleburne County had 13 hits overall against a team that reached the Class 2A semifinals last year and returned its solid young pitching staff.
“We saw three of them last night and they were all pretty good,” Cleburne County coach Vaughn Lee said Wednesday morning. “To beat pitching like that and to score runs like that was big.”
The score was 5-5 after four innings. In the bottom of the fifth, Cole Corkren fell behind 0-2 then worked a walk. Ross Price’s sacrifice bunt moved Corken to second and Matthew Shortt lined a twoout RBI single to centerfield, scoring Corkren with the go-ahead run.
The sixth started quietly with a fly ball out to center then Anderson Jacks reached on an infield error and Austin Harler singled.
With runners on second and first, Brady Padgett delivered an RBI single that scored Jacks. Damion Benefield entered to run for Padgett before Tyler Berry reached on an error to load the bases. Corkren singled sharply to left, scoring Harler. With the sacks full again, Price’s two-run single scored Benefield and Berry.
Shortt was hit by a pitch, loading the bases for the third time in the inning.
Jeremiah Blake ran Shortt and Trey Bolton ripped an RBI single to left to score Corkren. When the fielder misplayed Bolton’s ball, Price and Blake also scored and Bolton advanced to third. McCain Carlile’s sacrifice fly scored Bolton to increase Cleburne County’s lead to 14-5 and Jacks ended the game with a home run to left.
Looking for “mental toughness” in the lower half of his batting order, Lee moved seniors Price, Shortt and Bolton to the 6, 7 and 8 holes in the order and said the three responded by “coming up big for us.”
“They’re not great hitters but they’re doing their jobs, finding a way to get it done,” Lee added.
In preparation for today’s Class 4A, Area 10 home game against Munford,
Lee entered the Randolph County game intending to give a number of his pitchers some work and did. Garrett Cheatwood tossed the first three innings and allowed all five runs. Carlile worked the fourth and struck out all three batters he faced. Max Watson issued one walk in facing four batters.
In the top of the sixth, Padgett had a perfect inning, fanning three.
Corkren was 3-for-3 with a double and two RBIs. He scored three times. Price was 2-for-2 and had four RBIs. His tworun double to right was the big blow in
Cleburne County’s four-run first inning. Harler and Padgett each had two singles. Jacks scored three runs, Harler two and Berry two.
On Saturday, the Tigers found themselves on the wrong end of the 10-run rule, losing at Piedmont 12-2 in six innings.
Usually solid on defense, Cleburne County made five errors. Price walked and scored in the second on Max Watson RBI groundout after Shortt singled. Harler opened the third with a walk, stole second and came home on Corkren’s single to left.
“Other than Saturday night, we’ve played as good a defense as I’ve ever had,” Lee noted. “We’ve made about every play. … When we went to Centre the other night, we played extremely well defensively.”
At Centre Friday, Cleburne County rallied for three runs in the top of the eighth inning then held off the Cherokee County Warriors for a 7-6 victory. The score was 4-4 after seven innings.
Shortt opened the eighth with a base hit. Bolton entered to run for him and stole second then moved to third on Blake’s sacrifice bunt. Benefield’s RBI single sent Bolton home with the go-ahead run but the Tigers weren’t finished. Jacks and Harler walked, loading the bases, and Padgett singled to score Benefield. Jacks come home on a wild pitch for the third run of the inning.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Warriors scored two unearned runs and had the tying run on third when Bolton snagged a fly ball to left for the final out. Berry was the winner in relief. He got the final two outs of the sixth then finished the game, striking out three. Watson had five strikeouts in five innings.
Padgett had two singles and two RBIs. Jacks singled twice, drove in a run and scored two times. Berry had a base hit, an RBI and scored once.
Cleburne County opened Area 10 play on Thursday of last week against Anniston with a 13-1 win in five innings. The Tigers had 11 hits, 10 singles and Blake’s double. In all, 17 players got to the plate at least once for Cleburne County. Berry and Harler had three hits apiece. Harler drove in three runs. Watson had two RBIs. Berry, Corkren, Blake and Padgett each had one RBI. Jacks scored three run and Josh Davis scored twice. Price, Bolton, Berry, Watson, Blake, Skye Jarrell, Chad Brown and Mario Smith each scored once for the Tigers.