The win was the result of a six-run sixth inning offensive outpouring, followed by a dominating final inning from pitcher Jared Brasher.
“We saw our guys fight towards the end there, fight to the last inning,” Pell City head coach Andrew Tarver said. “That’s what we try to preach to our guys is to get them to the last inning to give us a chance to win and that’s what they did.”
In the sixth inning, Hoover replaced their starting pitcher Brantley Ballenger with side-armed relief pitcher Jack Clark.
Clark started the inning by giving up back-to-back singles to Carter St.John and Alex Jones. Logan Dobbs hit a pop fly into shallow right field. Hoover shortstop Connor Short gave chase, but was unable to make the catch giving Dobbs a single and an RBI as St. John came around to score. Brasher hit a single to center field, scoring pinch runner Chris Allen to cut the Hoover lead down to 4-3. At that point, Hoover turned to relief pitcher Hunter Richey, who didn’t fare much better than Clark. Jackson Williamson laid down a bunt straight down the first base line. The throw to the plate was not in time and Dobbs scored to tie the game at 4-4. Jake Eithridge singled to center field to load the bases. Matt Hill followed that up with a single to left field to score the go-ahead run, 5-4. Chase Robinson hit a grounder to first base for a sacrifice out that scored another run.
St. John, who led off the inning, came to the plate again and wound up with the same result as his first at-bat in the inning: a single, this one down a gap near third base scoring another run to give Pell City a 7-4 lead.
“It all starts with getting guys on base: a couple walks here, couple hits there and then the guys get fired up and were able to get some big hits for us,” Tarver said.
In the seventh inning, Tarver turned to fireballer Jared Brasher. Brasher struck out Steven Dobbs, Trey Davis and Bryant Smith in order to earn the win.
“That’s kind of his role as of right now for us, especially when we go to the area is send him in to close game one and possibly start game two or come in early in game two and shut the door for us,” Tarver explained of Brasher.
Hunter Richey was charged with the loss for Hoover, while Pell City’s starting pitcher Tanner Richey received a no decision. Richey pitched six strong innings, with all four of the runs allowed being unearned.
“Tanner Richey’s done a great job for us,” Tarver said. “He’s probably going to start for us in the first area game against Gadsden City. I think he gives us the best chance coming in right now with him being able to throw all three pitches for strikes and really competing out there on the mound and giving our guys a chance to win.”
Pell City jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning when Chase Robinson came around to score on a passed ball. Robinson started the Panthers off with a single to center field.
Hoover came back to tie it 1-1 in the top of the second inning.
Then in the top of the third inning, second baseman Jackson Williamson booted a hard-hit ground ball that resulted in two runs scoring. Hoover built upon their lead when Billy Read scored in the fourth inning on a Trace Turner grounder that reached the outfield to give Hoover a 4-1 lead that held until Pell City’s timely hitting in the sixth inning.
Tarver was pleased with his team’s determination to pull out the win against a significantly larger school that also has the current no. 1 ranking.
“It’s just really impressive for our guys, how much confidence they have in each other to fight out there and compete against guys that have 3000 in their school and we have 1000,” he said.
The Panthers were unable to pull off another come-from-behind victory in the second game of the doubleheader, falling 10-6.
Chris Allen got the start, pitching three innings while striking out one and allowing two earned runs. Jared Brasher pitched two innings of relief also allowing two earned runs while striking out three batters.
Brasher was one for two at the plate with two RBIs. Carter St. John had another strong offensive performance, going three for four with two RBIs.
The combined win and loss moved Pell City’s overall record to 6-8.
The team has another home doubleheader scheduled for Friday against Boaz with first pitch being at 4:30 p.m.