They swept a traditional power with nine state titles in the best-of-3 series, 8-4 and 13-8, and earned a third-round rematch against No. 9 Madison Academy, which eliminated them in the third round a year ago.
Friday’s doubleheader starts at 5 p.m. at White Plains (29-5).
Sweeping Hokes Bluff (19-7) was extra sweet for White Plains coach Chad Hudson, whose glory days played out there. He’s a 1993 grad and former three-sport athlete.
“I’m as proud of my guys as I’ve ever been, because people just don’t come over here and sweep,” Hudson said. “This is the best home-field advantage in Northeast Alabama in high school baseball.”
Hudson pitched, played third and first base and some right field under legendary coach Mike Estes, for whom the field is named. He also played football and basketball.
“I have such fond memories of this place,” Hudson said. “I had a great high school experience here, but I liked it a lot better when these folks were cheering for me.”
Monday’s doubleheader also saw senior catcher Tyler “Dirt” Jones hit his first career home run, one of five the Wildcats hit in the two games, including four in the second game.
“He don’t even hit home runs in batting practice, and he’s been starting for four years,” Hudson said.
Jones’ two-run blast to center field capped White Plains’ five-run first inning in the second game.
“The first two pitches were balls, and I looked over at Coach Hud, and he said, ‘Don’t miss it. Square it up,’” Jones said. “When I rounded third, I looked at him and said, ‘Did I miss it?’
“It felt good, but it felt better to walk out of here with two wins.”
The first game saw a first for senior lead-off hitter Konner Amis, who hit his first home run of the season. The two-run shot tied the game at 4-4 and launched the Wildcats’ five-run sixth inning.
“It was a curve ball, and he left it hanging inside,” Amis said of Hokes Bluff starter Tanner Sheilds. “I just swung and hit it right on the sweet spot. It felt good.”
White Plains had two five-run at bats and one six-run marathon, the latter nearly ending the second game in the sixth inning. Sophomore Zach Cunningham homered twice in the second game, and junior Dylan Burns ripped one.
“Coach Hudson has got a good team,” said Hokes Bluff coach Mike Robertson, who was an assistant coach in baseball and football when Hudson played there. “We knew that coming in. We thought we’d have to outscore them, and that’s really what it came down to.”
Meanwhile, the Wildcats got all the pitching they needed on a night that was more about offense. Cunningham threw a complete game in the opener, working 140 pitches. Of his eight strikeouts, six came on the third out.
Second-game starter Justin Turner tweaked an ankle in the third inning but hung on through one batter in the sixth inning, allowing just three earned runs and fanning six batters.
Reliever Austin Cowan worked a scoreless sixth inning. He allowed four runs in the seventh but started with a 13-4 lead, and all three outs came on strikeouts.
“There’s a lot to be proud of tonight,” Hudson said. “I tell you what, I’ve got (at least) three more days to coach these guys. I’m looking forward to that.”
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @Jomedstar.