During Thursday’s doubleheader with Class 1A, Area 13 rival Gaylesville, it was Austin McCullough and Devante Dixon that delivered those timely hits.
McCullough blasted a two-run homer to left field to rally Class 1A, No. 10 Cedar Bluff to a 9-5 victory in game one.
Dixon delivered a three-run triple to center and dashed home on an error as part of an eight-run second inning in the Tigers’ 16-1 victory in five innings.
For Cedar Bluff coach Taylor Talbot, it’s just what the doctor ordered.
“I thought we had some guys produce at some key times today,” Talbot said. “We were a little bit sluggish and had some at-bats that didn’t go the way we wanted. We ran ourselves out of an inning a time or two, but I’m proud of our guys for battling in game one.
“I think Austin was clutch. He picked us up with his home run there and got us going. We’d kind of been through a rough inning (in the bottom of the second).”
After Cedar Bluff took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first on a two-run single to center by McCullough, Gaylesville (1-10, 0-4) rallied to take a 4-1 lead in the second on Tiger starter Jake Mintz.
Trojan leadoff batter Cole Murphy delivered the big blow of the inning – a two-run double to center. He later scored on a passed ball.
But Cedar Bluff responded in the third, thanks to McCullough’s shot. CJ Gilreath doubled to center with one out, bringing McCullough to the plate. He took a Murphy offering well over the fence to tie the game at 4.
Cedar Bluff tacked on another unearned run to take the lead for good. McCullough, who went 3-for-4 and drove in five runs, delivered a run-scoring single to left center in the fourth. The Tigers added three more in the fifth on run-scoring singles by Jansen Teague, Curtis Abernathy and Gilreath to take a 9-4 advantage.
Abernathy also went 3-for-4 with a double to right and a pair of singles. He also had a RBI.
Gilreath was 2-for-3 with a double and a RBI.
Gaylesville scored one more run sixth on a bases-loaded walk to Murphy. Murphy finished the game going 1-for-2 with a two-run double and a pair of walks. He also suffered the loss after working 4 2/3 innings, giving up six runs with three walks, two hit batsmen and seven strikeouts.
Cole Kucharski picked up the win in relief of Mintz. Kucharski worked 2 1/3 innings of no-hit ball before giving way to Gilreath in the fifth.
Gilreath worked the final three innings, giving up a run with seven walks and three strikeouts.
Tristan Stalker had three walks for the Trojans. Dillon Evans had two walks. Will Callan and Corey Thomas were both 1-for-2. Gable Lawson went 1-for-4.
Gaylesville once again took an early 1-0 lead in the second game when Cy Burt scored on a passed ball in the second inning, but the Tiger offense exploded for eight runs in the second to win in a rout.
Dixon delivered much of the damage with his bases-clearing triple against Trojan starter Lawson.
“He (Dixon) came on around, and the good thing is he can really run,” Talbot said. “That was a big pickup, and that goes back to running the bases hard. That’s something these guys pride themselves on. I was proud for him there. He read it and didn’t miss a lick.
“That was big for us. It got us going and kind of got us back in the synch of things. It kind of rolled over in some other big innings.”
The Tigers tacked on six more runs in the third on Trojan reliever Evans. Gilreath and Teague had run-scoring singles in that inning.
Cedar Bluff scored two more runs in the fourth – one of which came on a single to left by Terry – for the final.
Terry went 3-for-3 at the plate for the Tigers in game two. McCullough was 2-for-3. Dixon, Abernathy, Gilreath, Cosby and Teague each contributed a hit. Levi Mintz drew a pair of walks.
Rickey Pendley earned the win for the Tigers. He tossed four innings with five walks and five strikeouts. Jessie Tucker closed out the game by striking out the side in the fifth.
“The guys play a little better when they’re loose, and it’s a good thing to see some of those young guys get rewarded with some playing time,” Talbot said. “We’re very proud of Jessie Tucker at the end. He’s a guy we’ve been after for several years to play baseball, and he goes out and has a good outing. We feel like that’s a situation where he can help us on the mound. He does a good job throwing strikes.”
Evans was 1-for-3 for the Trojans. Burt went 1-for-2 with a run scored. Lawson took the loss for the Trojans.
“I thought we hit the ball better tonight than we have been hitting it,” Gaylesville coach Kyle Garmon said. “We put the ball in play and made the defense react, but we made too many errors.”