By Lee Davis
A group from Spain Park is headed to Montgomery this weekend, and in a sense, the visit could be called a field trip.
But these students won’t have time to visit the capitol building or other landmarks of Alabama history.
Instead, the Spain Park contingent will be there to make history.
The Jaguar baseball team swept Baker 6-1 and 10-1 on the road in the Class 6A semifinals last weekend to reach the state championship series at Patterson Field for the first time in the school’s existence.
Spain Park will face perennial North Alabama power Sparkman in a best-of-three series that will begin at 7 p.m. Friday.
The series-clinching victory in game two was led by pitcher Josh Rich, who pitched seven innings, scattered 10 hits and struck out three Hornet batters.
“Josh got in some jams early but pitched his way out of them,” said Jaguar coach Will Smith. “We played good defense behind him. We didn’t let Baker have a big inning, and we finally got one of our own.”
Spain Park’s big inning came in the bottom of the sixth, when the Jags scored five runs to stretch a 5-1 lead to the final score of 10-1.
After Baker scored in the first inning, Spain Park immediately came back with two runs. Austin Haight’s sacrifice fly scored Matt Berler, and Rodney Anderson brought in Jon Sumner for another run.
The Jaguars really took control in the fourth inning, scoring three runs. Tyler Wise had an RBI single. Rich scored on an RBI single by Hunter Dawson, and Wise scored after a wild pitch.
Spain Park’s fifth inning was headed by a two-run single by Berler and an RBI double by Sumner.
“Hitting is contagious,” Smith said. “Once it starts, it creates excitement in the dugout.”
Spain Park heads to the finals with a 36-16 record.
In the first game, Spain Park whipped Baker 6-1 in a game that was called after five innings and an hour and a half rain delay because of inclement weather.
Starting pitcher Mason Duke sparked the Jaguars by surrendering only three hits and striking out three batters.
Berler had a two-run single for the winners. Haight had two doubles, including one that scored three runs. Wise had two doubles.
Duke yielded a home run in the first inning but settled down for the rest of the way.
Spain Park’s big explosion took place in the fourth inning where, helped by Haight’s three-run double and Berler’s two-run single, the Jags scored five runs.
“Mason pitched well for us,” Smith said. “In wet conditions, all you can do is ask him to throw strikes. Our guys played well defensively.”
The news wasn’t quite so good for Briarwood in Class 5A. The Lions, playing at home, were swept in their semifinal round, losing to Cullman in two consecutive games 7-5 and 10-0.
In the first game, Cullman broke off to a 6-0 lead, thanks in large part to three home runs. Briarwood scored a run in the third inning, two runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth but couldn’t get any closer. Ethan Simmons took the loss for the Lions.
In the second game, Bearcats pitcher Auston Neal produced a dazzling performance, giving up only two hits while striking out nine Briarwood batters.
Neal’s best moment may have come in the third inning after Briarwood had loaded the bases. The Cullman ace promptly struck out the side to end the Lions’ best hope.
“That was a turning point,” said Briarwood coach Steve Renfroe. “You could see Cullman getting a big lift out of that, and I think it took something out of our guys.”
Briarwood ended its season with a 20-11 record.
In Class 6A softball, Spain Park reached the state tournament at Lagoon Park with a 2-0 win over Central of Phenix City at the South Central Regionals at Troy University.
Destini England had two hits for the Lady Jaguars, while Brittany Anderson, Caroline Parker, Marley Barnes and Haleigh Sisson each had one hit.
Spain Park will face Sparkman in the Class 6A state tournament Friday at Lagoon Park.
Hoover defeated longtime rival Vestavia Hills 7-0 to punch its ticket to Montgomery in the North Central Regionals in Tuscaloosa.
Carly Sewell pitched a two-hit shutout to lead the Lady Bucs. She struck out five Lady Rebels and helped her cause with a two-run double in the fifth inning.
Hoover, now 36-19 for the year, will meet Mary Montgomery Friday at Lagoon Park.
In Class 5A, Briarwood earned its second consecutive trip to Lagoon Park with a 4-1 win over Shelby County in the South Central Regionals at Troy.
Ashlyn Boyd hit a two-RBI double, and Marleigh Miller drove in a run to help the Lady Lions earn the victory.
Briarwood will face Athens Thursday in the first round of the state tournament in Montgomery. The Lady Lions are 24-13-1 for the year.
Homewood was eliminated by Sylacauga. The Lady Patriots closed with a 9-19 mark.