Austin season ends in Tuscaloosa
By Josh Cooper
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TUSCALOOSA — Austin High senior center fielder Ty Chancelor tried to fight back the tears following the Black Bears 6-2 playoff loss at Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa.
With a tough game against a starting pitcher who has signed with Jacksonville State, Austin saw its season come to an end. A young team with six seniors, the Black Bears finished the year 20-22.
"Emotions are high right now," said a misty-eyed Chancelor. "I'm at a loss for words."
Austin coach Jake Miles started three of the team's six seniors Tuesday. And the Black Bears scraped and clawed, but finished with three hits off Hillcrest starter John David Smelser.
Smelser tossed seven innings for the Patriots, striking out nine.
"He had good pitch location and a good fastball," Chancelor said.
"He did a good job of painting the outside corner."
The Black Bears used an aggressive strategy at the plate, swinging at most of Smelser's pitches early in counts.
Smelser often came at them with an assortment of hard fastballs and curveballs mixed in with some changeups.
The philosophy, according to Miles, was that if you're not going to see a lot of good pitches to hit, might as well try to go after the pitcher early.
Six of Smelser's strikeouts were swinging strikes.
Austin's pitching was tough, but the Patriots took advantage of their opportunities.
After Austin scored the game's first run, a sacrifice fly by Jake McCay in the third, which plated Trey Richard, Hillcrest scored four runs in the bottom half of the inning.
Austin starter Ben Bullard walked the first batter of the inning, which saw Hillcrest making some aggressive plays — consecutive bunts — that led to an error and a single.
Smelser scored a run on an infield single. Then Bullard balked in a run, which was followed by two-run single by Jackson Woodruff.
Bullard tossed four innings, allowing four runs on six hits with two strikeouts.
Austin scored its final run of the season when Matthew Frazier bunted home Aaron Richards.
Following the game, the seniors addressed the team and gave the younger players some words of encouragement.
According to Chancelor, he told the team that they had a good season and wished them luck in the future.
"I couldn't be more proud of our seniors," Miles said. "They played through a tough season. It was a year where we had to continuously improve, and we are a tougher team."
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