Prep Baseball: Cullman 1-2 punch shuts down Walker
by Johnathan Bentley
May 03, 2014 | 1880 views | 0 0 comments | 40 40 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Walker’s Bryant Atkins throws a pitch against Cullman during game one of their third-round playoff series at Valley Park at Friday. Cullman swept the Vikings out the playoffs, winning 4-0 and 7-0. Photo by Johnathan Bentley
Walker’s Bryant Atkins throws a pitch against Cullman during game one of their third-round playoff series at Valley Park at Friday. Cullman swept the Vikings out the playoffs, winning 4-0 and 7-0. Photo by Johnathan Bentley
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Walker’s run through the state baseball playoffs hit a roadblock on Friday at Valley Park, in the form of Cullman pitchers Jesse Scott and Auston Neal.

The Vikings’ offense, which had come up with timely hits in key situations throughout the first two rounds of the postseason, were unable to mount any offense against Scott and Neal as the Bearcats earned 4-0 and 7-0 victories to sweep their Class 5A third-round playoff series.

 Hits alone were hard to come by against the No. 2-ranked Bearcats. Scott and Neal held the Vikings to just hits and struck out 23 Walker batters in 14 innings.

“It started on the mound (for Cullman). Scott and Neal both made some quality pitches. They had a great gameplan and executed it,” Walker coach Pat Ware said. “We didn’t score a run. You can’t win if you don’t score.

“We just couldn’t push any runs across. If we could have just squeaked across one run in that first game, it would have been a totally different ball game. We just came up a little short.”

After a slow start, Cullman’s potent offense finally got going in the late innings of the first game and took over from there.

Cullman (40-10) heads to the fourth round of the state playoffs where the Bearcats will face Briarwood Christian next week.

In Friday’s opener, Scott blew through the Walker lineup.

Five of the first six Walker outs were via strike out. By the second time through the lineup, he had struck out eight of the nine Walker batters at least once.

Walker’s Bryant Atkins threw six stellar innings in the loss.

Cullman broke a scoreless tie with a run in the top of the fifth inning. Colby Robinson singled and scored when the throw from Walker catcher Logan Nix went over the shortstop’s head on a stolen base attempt.

The Bearcats put the game out of reach with three insurance runs in the top of the seventh.

Cullman’s Lance Cleveland came through with a two-out, two-run single to center field that scored both Neal and Robinson. Owen Lovell added an RBI single that drove in Cole Collins with the final run.

Atkins allowed three runs, two earned, on three hits and five walks. He struck out two batters. Jackson Holladay came in for Atkins with two on and no outs in the seventh inning. He gave up one earned run on two hits and a walk while striking out one.

Stone Stephenson and Atkins had hits for Walker.

Cullman struck early in the second game.

Both Keaton Dean and Maison Goodwin reached base after being hit by pitches with one out in the second inning. Neal reached on an error to load the bases. After a strikeout, Colby Robinson drove in a run with an infield single. The second run scored on an errant throw, giving the Bearcats a 2-0 lead.

That was more than enough offense for Neal, who gave up three hits. He got stronger as the game progressed, striking out seven of the last nine batters he faced, including five in a row through the fifth and sixth innings.

Down 2-0 in the third inning, Walker had a chance to get on the scoreboard after a CJ Robinson one-out double. Robinson took third on a passed ball, but was erased on a play at the plate. Cullman catcher Cristian Martinez took the relay throw from Cleveland to get the tag just ahead of a sliding Robinson after a fly out to right field.

Cullman padded its lead with three runs in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Collins delivered a two-out, three-run triple to push the Bearcats’ lead to 5-0.

Cullman’s last two runs came on singles by Martinez and Lovell in the bottom of the sixth.

Bailey Tidwell suffered the loss for Walker (23-21). He gave up seven runs, five earned, on six hits, two walks and three hit batters. He struck out six.

At the plate, Robinson was 1 for 2 with a double, Tidwell was 1 for 2 with a double and Brooks Wade added a single.