Valley Cubs held to one run in season-ending loss
by Nick Birdsong
nbirdsong@annistonstar.com
May 06, 2012 | 3324 views |  0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ALEXANDRIA — Opportunities to plate runners were few and far between in Saturday’s Game 3 matchup between Alexandria and Oneonta in the quarterfinals of the AHSAA Class 4A state baseball playoffs.

The visiting Redskins scored once in the first and again in the third, and it wound up being enough to catapult them to a series-clinching 2-1 victory on foreign soil.

“Both pitchers just did such an outstanding job today,” Alexandria coach Andy Shaw said. “Tanner Wells just pitched his tail off. They didn’t hit it much and we didn’t hit it much.”

Alexandria’s best scoring chance came in the bottom of the first when they had the bases loaded twice. However, the Redskins got force outs at home and third to get out of the inning unscathed.

Wells took the loss for the Valley Cubs.

The 6-foot-4 junior went the distance and gave up one earned run on four hits while striking out four, walking one and hitting another.

His only major misstep came on the very first at-bat of the game when he gave up a triple to Oneonta leadoff hitter Austin Owens.

Redskins’ two-hole hitter Taylor Oden grounded out to bring in Owens.

Oden reached on a bunt with two outs in the third and stole second to get into scoring position with Chase Bryant at the plate.

It seemed as if it’d be for naught when Bryant hit what appeared to be a routine grounder to short but the ball got past Alexandria’s Tyler Burr.

The ball trickled into shallow left field, allowing Oden to score from second.

It was the last time Oneonta (23-6) would get a runner beyond first base as Wells settled in and dominated for the remainder of his outing.

“I just knew it was over from then,” Wells said. “I knew our guys could hit and I knew we’d come back.”

They nearly did in the bottom of the seventh.

Oneonta coach Phil Phillips pulled freshman starter Carter Sims for Schyler Walker with one out after Valley Cubs’ leadoff hitter Justice Owens legged out his second single of the day on a dribbler up the middle.

Carter went to the dugout after 6 1/3 innings of shutout baseball, during which he struck out three and gave up four hits.

“I wanted to bring a little more velocity, maybe with a little break, because they had five right-handers in a row coming up,” Phillips said. “I went with Schyler and if I would’ve had to I would’ve gone back to my Game 1 starter for one inning.”

The change was just what the Valley Cubs needed to attempt a comeback.

“We were kind of excited about it,” Shaw said. “We had been waiting on him to come in. We never gave them a chance to put him in because we didn’t do anything with the other guy.”

Valley Cubs third baseman Ethan Curvin got his second hit of the day when he got a single off Walker to put runners on first and second for Burr.

Burr reached after the Redskins opted to take the force at second while Owens advanced to third.

Owens scored when the Oneonta third baseman could not handle Jake Whiting’s hard-hit ground ball. The rally and the game ended when Justin Bowen grounded out to second with two outs.

The Valley Cubs (22-17) have put together a successful string on the diamond as of late, including a trip to the state championship series in 2010 followed by back-to-back trips to the quarterfinals.

“I told these guys they stand on the shoulders of the guys that came before them in the program,” Shaw said. “They just climbed on their shoulders. People have to stand on their shoulders now because they raised the bar.”

Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575. Follow him on Twitter @birds_word.

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