By Rubin E. Grant
Hoover baseball coach Adam Moseley sounded more upbeat than disappointed a few days after the Bucs’ quest for the AHSAA Class 7A title ended with a one-run loss in the deciding third game.
The Bucs had scored twice and had the bases loaded with two outs in the top of the seventh inning, but Auburn reliever Ryan Olson struck out Hoover’s Cade Carr to preserve the Tigers’ 7-6 victory and clinch the school’s fourth state title.
Hoover was denied its first title since 2017 after a remarkable run in the state playoffs.
“It was an especially gratifying season,” Moseley said. “I tell people all the time that I wish they could have spent one day in our dugout because this was an amazing and fun group to be around.”
Coming into the season, Moseley expected to have a team capable of making a run at the Class 7A title, even though the Bucs lost 13 seniors, including several who are now playing in college, off their 2020 team that had its season cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Bucs stumbled to a 3-9 start to begin this season.
“It was one of those things where we had so many inexperienced players at the varsity level,” Moseley said. “With the hard schedule we play, I knew we would take our lumps early on before we could get it right. I didn’t think we’d start off 3-9, but I didn’t see 13-0 either.”
The Bucs eventually got it right, especially in the postseason. Unranked Hoover swept No. 6 Bob Jones (26-21) in the first round and No. 1 Hewitt-Trussville (28-6) in the quarterfinals before knocking off No. 3 Florence (29-11) in three games in the semifinals to reach the championship series against No. 4 Auburn.
“I think once area play started we had a different focus and a different level of play,” Moseley said.
Hoover dropped Game 1 of the championship series 9-2 on May 19 at Paterson Field in Montgomery. The Bucs came back the next day in Game 2 at Riverwalk Stadium to win 8-2 as pitcher Matthew Hawsey (11-4) threw 5 1/3 strong innings, allowing five hits, walking none and striking out one to get the win. Catcher Lucas Steele slugged a three-run homer in the first inning and R.J. Hamilton had two hits and scored three runs.
That set the stage for the dramatic Game 3. Auburn (36-7) took an early 3-1 lead and led 6-2 going into the sixth. Alex Wilson’s two-run single in the top of the sixth brought the Bucs within 6-4, but Auburn answered with what turned out to be the winning run in the bottom of the inning on Patrick McGlon’s RBI double. McGlon was named the series MVP.
Hoover (27-22) mounted one last rally in the seventh. Steele led off with a triple and scored on Carter Short’s one-out single. Ty Truett’s two-out RBI single brought the Bucs within 7-6. A walk loaded the bases before Olson struck out Carr to end it after nearly six hours of action in the final two games.
“Our kids didn’t quit,” Moseley said. “Auburn had a great team. They made one more play than we did, and that won’t take away from what we accomplished.
“A long time from now, what we’ll talk about is the run they made. I loved being around them.”