The third-seeded Valley Cubs took home the trophy behind four strong pitching performances, with Tanner Wells being the guy on Wednesday to get his team past top-seed Oxford, 3-1. It marked the first time since 2007 that Alexandria had won the crown.
“It’s always great to win the county tournament because it’s such a competitive county,” Valley Cubs coach Andy Shaw said. “We’re just proud to do it and proud to be from Alexandria.”
The Valley Cubs (8-2) jumped on Oxford starter Joe McGuire early, with Justice Owens singling to lead off the game. He scored two batters later on a fielder’s choice, with the Yellow Jackets (3-4) electing to get the first out of the inning at second base.
With the lead, Wells cruised through the first, retiring the first three batters before Oxford came to life in the second. After Austin Jones was hit by a pitch, back-to-back singles by Colton Turner and Trent Simpson tied the game.
But from then on, it was all Wells.
“He kept the ball down in the zone, which I thought was huge,” Oxford coach Wes Brooks said. “He got a lot of ground balls and we hit at guys.”
Wells only allowed one hit for the remainder of the game, having a total of three base runners. Alexandria took the lead the next inning after Owens was thrown out at third trying to advance on a ground ball to short. Dalton Cobb reached on the fielder’s choice and was brought home the next at-bat on a triple by Jake Whiting.
“Any time you have a guy on the mound like (McGuire), we were just fortunate enough to get another guy over there,” Shaw said. “We got a timely hit and did a good job to get him in.”
Alexandria got an insurance run in the fifth with Owens scoring on a double by Cobb after reaching on an error.
After Wells faced only three batters in each of the third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings, things got a little shaky in the seventh. After recording a groundout to second baseman Zac Carrizales, Colton Turner beat out an infield groundball.
Although there was no threat with a man on, Oxford designated hitter Simpson almost changed that with a swing of the bat.
In his first game of the season after being cleared from tearing his ACL during Week 9 of football season, Simpson hit a thunderous shot to left field.
“I thought I just gave up a two-run homer,” Wells said. “I was like, ‘Oh God.’”
As Owens scrambled around left field in an attempt to keep the game in Alexandria’s favor, the ball fell short of the fence and into Owens’ glove.
“I turned around and said, ‘Thank you, Jesus,’” Wells said.
With two outs, Wells struck out Matt Butler to bring the title back to The Valley.
“It feels good,” Wells said. “It feels good to beat Jacksonville especially.”
As fate would have it, Oxford will have another chance to defeat the Valley Cubs sooner than later. The two square off Friday at Alexandria at 7:30 p.m.
“I think we’re two evenly matched teams,” Brooks said. “I think if we played them 10 times, we’d win five times and they’d win five times.”
Sports Writer Brandon Miller: 256-235-3575. On Twitter @bmiller_star.