Cherokee County comes to Heflin today for what, hopefully, will be the first baseball game of the season for Tigers Cole Corkren and Brady Padgett. Padgett and Corkren, both experienced players, have been awaiting medical clearances after each was injured during football season. Cleburne County coach Vaughn Lee expects the duo to add more offensive punch for the Tigers. First pitch for today’s game against the Warriors is set for 6:30 p.m.
“We work ourselves on base. We do the things we need to do to set ourselves up. We just can’t get those runner-in-scoring position RBIs,” Lee said of the early going. “We’re just not driving the ball when we need to drive it. We’re leaving a lot of men in scoring position. We’re not playing ugly but nobody’s been able to hit clutch with runners in scoring position.”
Cleburne County picked up a 5-4 win in eight innings over Horseshoe Bend in Roanoke Saturday, the final day of play in the Handley tournament. Lee said the game ended on an unusual play. Others might have called it bizarre.
In the bottom of the eighth, Anderson Jacks walked and moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt. Max Watson reached on an error at shortstop, putting Tigers on first and second. Tyler Berry hit a ground ball to the second base side of third base. When the Horseshoe Bend third baseman gloved the ball he attempted to tag Jacks and Jacks moved to avoid the tag.
At that point, Jacks was called out for running out of the base line but the third baseman apparently didn’t hear the call and threw toward his shortstop, moving to cover third. The ball sailed past third and began rolling toward the Cleburne County dugout with both Generals in pursuit. In the confusion, Watson round second and headed for third.
When the loose ball rolled into the dugout, the umpires ruled Watson would have reached third base even if the ball had not rolled out of play and awarded him another base, sending him home with the winning run much to the dismay and displeasure of Horseshoe Bend fans.
“We clearly had third base and the ball was dead so he gets another base,” Lee said. “Our guy was almost on third when the ball rolled into the dugout.”
Watson was also the winning pitcher for the Tigers. He took the mound in the top of the seventh inning with two out and the bases loaded. Watson struck out the Generals’ leadoff hitter to end the seventh then had a 1-2-3 eighth inning against the heart of the Horseshoe Bend order.
Starter McCain Carlile went three innings with one earned run and one strikeout but the score was 3-3 when he left. Garrett Cheatwood followed Carlile for two innings and gave up one earned run. Berry struck out one in one and two-thirds innings. Two errors contributed to the seventh-inning jam. Berry was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI to lead the Tigers’ offense.
“We made a lot of good-looking defensive plays. … We pitched well again. We hit it okay,” Lee said of the Horseshoe Bend game. “We get runners in scoring position and leave them on base all the time.”