By Lee Davis
The Alabama High School Athletic Association’s baseball playoff format normally calls for two games on Friday with a third game on Saturday, if necessary.
Last week, as far as Over the Mountain schools were concerned, most teams – for better or worse – wound up getting Saturday as a day off.
Hoover and Oak Mountain only needed two games to clinch their respective playoff matches in Class 7A, while Spain Park in Class 7A and Homewood in Class 6A were swept on Friday.
Only Class 7A Vestavia Hills and Class 5A Briarwood needed Saturday games to settle matters – the Rebels advancing and the Lions seeing their season come to an end.
The Bucs swept Buckhorn 8-3 and 3-1, thanks in large part to some timely power hitting. Sonny DiChiara slammed two home runs in Hoover’s opening victory, while pitcher Brock Guffey hurled a four-hitter in the second game. Peyton Wilson and C.J. Gilliland also homered for the Bucs in the first game.
Hoover will host Grissom in the quarterfinals beginning Friday. The Bucs raised their season record to 33-9.
Oak Mountain advanced to the next round by defeating Huntsville 6-4 and 6-2. The Eagles earned two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to break a 4-4 tie. Dylan Fraser’s walk and a sacrifice bunt put Fraser in a position to score. A bad throw from third base allowed Fraser to get the go-ahead run.
Logan Sheaffer had two hits, two RBIs and two runs for Oak Mountain. Gene Hurst got the win allowing just four hits and three runs.
In the second game, Jacob Williams had three hits. Joseph Hartfield yielded five hits while striking out 10 Crimson Panther batters.
Vestavia Hills needed a third game to eliminate Sparkman, and it needed a dramatic seventh inning rally to clinch the series. With the game tied 6-6 and one out with the bases loaded, the Rebels’ William Schaffeld hit a ball to the Senator shortstop, who threw the ball toward home to force out base runner Colton Lewis at the plate. The Sparkman catcher caught the ball on the bounce, but Lewis was called safe to end the game.
The Rebels opened with a 4-0 lead before the Senators rebounded to take a 6-4 lead in the sixth inning. Andrew Knight’s RBI and D.J. Steele’s homer with the bases empty tied the game, setting the stage for Lewis’ heroics.
Knight and Lewis both had three hits for Vestavia, and Steele had two hits. Garrison Cherry earned the victory in a relief role.
Vestavia forced a third game on Saturday by rallying for a 9-5 win over Sparkman in the second game of Friday’s double header. Right-hander Caden Lemons gave up two runs on four hits and struck out four. Drew Stockton had four hits for the Rebels and Will Hoffman added three.
The Senators won the opening game in the series 7-6.
The Rebels will host Oak Mountain in the Class 7A quarterfinals this weekend. Vestavia improved its record to 18-15.
On the downside, Spain Park was swept by Grissom 9-7 and 8-7. In the second game, the Jaguars rallied from an 8-1 deficit by scoring five runs, highlighted by a homer from Kevin Hopkins. Spain Park finished its season 22-16.
Top-ranked Briarwood saw its dream of a Class 5A championship end with a 6-0 loss to Faith Academy in the third game of a three-game set on Saturday. Rams pitcher Jamison Morris held the Lion batters to only four hits, and just one runner advanced to third base.
The previous day, Briarwood took the first game 6-5, but Faith battled back to even the series with a classic 1-0 win. Rams ace Gabe Shepard struck out 15 Lion batters and yielded only one hit. Briarwood pitcher Sam Strickland only allowed three hits in the losing cause.
“Sometimes you just have to tip your hat to the other guy,” Lion coach Steve Renfroe said.
Briarwood finished its season with a 27-5 record.
In Class 6A competition, Homewood was swept by Decatur 4-1 and 10-5 to end the Patriots’ season.