Black jack: Decatur Heritage hits 21 in memorable 4th inning
By Brooke Milam
One by one, the Decatur Heritage Eagles stepped to the plate. One by one, they methodically erased a sizable deficit in a home state playoff game against Cedar Bluff.
But the Eagles didn’t stop there.
After evening the score, Decatur Heritage was just getting started, and when the barrage ended, the Eagles had a 22-9 win in the deciding contest of a best-of-three second-round series in Class 1A.
“That was crazy,” senior catcher and team captain Drew Atchley said.
“Once we started going, it was like we couldn’t get out. Definitely, that was special.”
The Eagles put up an astonishing 21 runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to the disbelief of Cedar Bluff, which tried five different pitchers in the inning.
Twenty batters stepped to the plate before Decatur Heritage made an out, keeping the bases full of Eagles for most of the inning.
“We’ve hit the ball all year,” Decatur Heritage coach Steve Atchley said. “I knew we were going to hit it, but I would never have imagined an attack like that.”
Decatur Heritage (14-17) advanced to the quarterfinals and will travel to face Hackleburg (34-4) in a best-of-three series. A Friday doubleheader will begin at 4:30 p.m., and if a third game is necessary, it will be Saturday at 2 p.m.
Hackleburg, which eliminated Decatur Heritage in the first round last season, advanced by sweeping Shoals Christian 10-0 and 4-3.
After splitting with Cedar Bluff on Friday, none of the Eagles expected the kind of jaw-dropping performance they produced in Saturday’s win.
“I was down that we lost one yesterday, but I was confident we could come in and take them out today,” Drew Atchley said. “I had no idea it would be like that, though.”
Decatur Heritage actually trailed 5-0 early in the contest. The visiting Tigers posted five runs in the first inning, tacked on two more in the third and another two in the fourth.
Until the fourth-inning explosion, Chase Wright had scored the Eagles’ only run, coming home on a hit by Brent Denson in the first inning.
“We’d played from behind, but not 9-1 — nowhere near 9-1,” Steve Atchley said.
Decatur Heritage found an offensive spark to pull within 9-8 in the fourth inning. Then William Littlejohn walked, plating Chris Oliver for the game-tying run.
Bo Godwin batted next, scoring Trent McLemore for the go-ahead run that put Decatur Heritage up 10-9.
A single by Denson scored Sam Hurt, and when Luke Adams’ two-RBI single drove in Littlejohn and Godwin, the Eagles were officially on a roll — and just getting warmed up.
Denson was hit by a pitch in his next at-bat. Wright walked, which scored Denson. Oliver drove in Adams, and Marshall Schmid, pinch-running for Drew Atchley, continuing the carousel of base runners.
Hurt walked, scoring Wright, and a single by Littlejohn scored Oliver.
Denson drove in McLemore, and Decatur Heritage was ahead 19-9 when Adams hit a three-RBI double, scoring Hurt, Denson and Littlejohn for the Eagles’ final runs.
To complete the job, Oliver took the mound in the top of the fifth, allowing no runs and one hit and walking one.
Starting pitcher David Stephenson got the win, going four innings and allowing nine hits.
“I knew it would take a lot of runs and I told them I wanted double-digits, but I still didn’t expect all that,” Steve Atchley said.
State baseball playoffs
Results from the second round of the state baseball playoffs Saturday. All games were the third games of best-of-three series. The winners advance to the quarterfinals.
Decatur Heritage 22, Cedar Bluff 9
Hatton 13, Westbrook Christian 2
Mars Hill 10, Addison 0
Boaz 4, Lawrence County 3
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