The Golden Eagles and Valley Cubs split the first two games of the second round of the Class 4A baseball playoffs. Jacksonville won the first game 9-7 and Alexandria took the second 12-5. The final contest of the best-of-three series will be today at noon.
“It’s just a battle every time we play,” Valley Cubs coach David Shaw said. “I’m sure it’s fun for the fans to watch this, but it was two good ball teams just going at each other.”
Both games went back and forth and came down to the wire, similar to the previous three times they played this season, but neither featured lead changes.
In Game 1, Jacksonville took a 3-0 lead in the second inning before Alexandria tied in the bottom half. But the Golden Eagles scored one in the third behind base hits by Sid Thurmond and Chance Marbut and another in the fourth thanks to sloppy play by the Valley Cubs.
But Alexandria shook it off.
The Cubs added four runs in the fifth and sixth innings with Ethan Curvin scoring twice and Justice Owens and Dalton Cobb crossing the plate as well.
“The first game was back and forth the whole time,” Jacksonville coach David Deerman said. “That’s how most of these games are going to be.”
After the Golden Eagles scored two in the top of the sixth to take a 7-5 lead, they added two in the seventh with a tie game that would seal the game. Nathan Whaley singled with two outs and was followed by Payton Sims reaching on an error and Shed Long and Jackson Bell each hitting a single.
“We got some hits in some key situations,” Deerman said. “We were fortunate to win.”
However, the beginning of the second game was completely different.
Alexandria started the top of the first with a run and added five more in the second. Logan Doss, Zac Carrizales, Johnny Watts, Owens and Curvin each singled in the two innings.
“I think a lot of hit had to do with just not giving up and battling back in the first game,” Shaw said. “We didn’t lead, but we kept coming back and I think they showed a lot of character and it’s something we can use in the next game.”
But that’s when the runs stopped for Alexandria. And eventually the Jacksonville bats came alive.
After having no success through the lineup once, the Golden Eagles tacked on two runs after back-to-back doubles by Long and Bell in the bottom of the fourth. The following inning included two more runs after Andrew Clingan reached on an error and Whaley walked. Clingan scored on a bases-loaded walk to Long and Whaley scored on a sacrifice fly ball by Bell.
Then in the top of the seventh with the game tied 5-5, Alexandria blew the game open.
“We didn’t play as well in the second game, by any means,” Deerman said. “We didn’t swing the bat well either. We walked some people and hit some people and they hit the ball.”
Jake Whiting led off with a home run before the Jacksonville pitching staff started losing control on pitches. Five consecutive batters reached base, four on walks, before an out was recorded. All five went on to score and six batters walked in the inning that saw 11 batters come to the plate.
“They had some trouble throwing strikes, but they were saving a good guy for us tomorrow,” Shaw said. “We had to pretty much use everyone. But we’ll just do our best tomorrow.”
Doss, Carrizales, Watts, Whiting and Curvin each had three-hit nights for Alexandria (23-12). Jacksonville (22-10) was led at the plate by Tanner Sims, who had three hits, and Bell, who had two hits and three RBIs. Thurmond and Long each had two hits in games one and two.
Game 3 will provide a familiar situation for Jacksonville, which took defending Class 4A state champion Gunterville down to the wire last weekend on the road. Alexandria swept Sardis at home.
“We’ve been in this situation before and we’ve just got to bounce back and remember tomorrow is a new day,” Deerman said.
Sports Writer Brandon Miller: 256-235-3575. On Twitter @bmiller_star.