By Rubin E. Grant
The second week of the Alabama High School Athletic Association state baseball playoffs wasn’t kind to Over the Mountain teams.
Only the Vestavia Hills Rebels are still alive after sweeping eighth-ranked Tuscaloosa County 19-2 and 5-2 in the Class 7A first round last week.
“We played really well,” Vestavia Hills coach Jamie Harris said. “Tuscaloosa County is a good team and we had to play well to beat them.
“We pitched it well and for the most part we played well defensively, and we hit the ball really well. We had been waiting all year for our bats to come alive because coming into the season we thought we could swing it.”
The Rebels (22-15) definitely came out swinging in Game 1. They scored six runs in the first inning en route to the blowout victory.
Vestavia Hills received production up and down the lineup. Thomas Watson was 2 for 3 with a grand slam, triple, three runs and five RBI. John Paul Head was 1 for 2 with three RBI, Hudson Walburn was 1 for 3 with two RBI, Max Stewart was 2 for 4 with a double, two runs and RBI, and Harris was 2 for 3 with three runs.
Caleb Shofner pitched a complete game, which was shortened to five innings because of the 10-run mercy rule. He allowed four hits and no earned runs while striking out four.
In Game 2, the Rebels rallied for four runs in the fifth inning to overcome a 2-1 deficit and complete the sweep.
Pierce Hanna’s sacrifice fly scored Harris to tie the score, then Watson delivered a two-run single to put the Rebels ahead. Stewart added a sacrifice fly to complete the rally.
Aiden Black pitched six innings, allowing four hits with four walks and an earned run to pick up the win. Barrett Harper pitched a perfect seventh to earn a save.
Vestavia Hills will play host to fourth-ranked Bob Jones (35-8) in the quarterfinals Friday and Saturday. Bob Jones swept Sparkman 9-0 and 3-1 to advance.
“We haven’t seen them this season,” Harris said of the Patriots. “But when you get to the 7A quarterfinals, it doesn’t matter who you play. You’ve got to play well or you go home.”
Mountain Brook Swept
Seventh-ranked Mountain Brook had home-field advantage, but it didn’t matter against top-ranked Hartselle. The Tigers (35-4) swept the Spartans 6-2 and 5-1 in their best of 3 second-round Class 6A series.
In Game 1, Elliott Bray hit a solo home run and Jo Williamson and Brodie Morrow drove in two runs each to lead Hartselle.
John Robicheaux hit a solo home run for Mountain Brook (22-13).
Gabe Young took the loss for the Spartans, allowing six earned runs on eight hits in 6⅔ innings. He struck out 10 and walked three.
William Turner went the distance for Hartselle to earn the win. He allowed six hits and two runs with 11 strikeouts and a walk.
In the second game, the Tigers jumped out a 5-0 lead in the first five innings to complete the swept.
Bray went 3 for 3 for Hartselle (35-4) with four RBI, and Morrow was 2 for 2 with three runs scored. Bray also was the winning pitcher, giving up one run and six hits with nine strikeouts while pitching a complete game.
Mountain Brook scored its only run in the sixth run when Trent Wright knocked in James Graphos.
Howell Polk took the loss for Mountain Brook, yielding five runs and nine hits with four strikeouts.
Hoover made a remarkable run to the Class 7A state championship series en route to a runner-up finish in 2021, but the Bucs won’t have a magical postseason journey this year.
The top-ranked Hewitt-Trussville Huskies (26-3-1) swept the visiting seventh-ranked Bucs 8-6 and 6-3 in their first-round series.
Lucas Steele, a Samford signee, had a productive day for the Bucs (28-16), going 3 for 7 with a solo home run and two-run single in the two games. Carter Milliron finished 2 of 6 with an RBI single and scored on an error.
Colin Rengering was tagged with the Game 1 loss, allowing two runs on two hits, and Tyler Wilson took a complete-game loss in Game 2, allowing six runs on seven hits.
John Carroll Ousted
John Carroll Catholic (13-18) was eliminated in the Class 5A second round, getting swept at Alexandria, 5-1 and 10-7.
The seventh-ranked Valley Cubs (24-13) won the first game behind sophomore right-hander Andrew Allen, who pitched a complete game four-hitter.
In the second game, Alexandria took a 10-2 lead, then held off the Cavaliers’ late rally in the final two innings.