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WEDNESDAY, MAY 16, 2007
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Leroy takes sting out of Hornets
Hatton blanked on 3-hitter
in 1st game of 2A finals

By Brooke Milam
bmilam@decaturdaily.com 340-2460

MONTGOMERY — The Hatton High Hornets had heard the talk that Leroy's baseball team could hit as well as any team in the state. But Tuesday in the Class 2A state finals, the Hornets saw firsthand what the Bears could do at the plate.

"I felt like Leroy was just like advertised," Hatton coach Brent Gillespie said. "They swung the bats well and put pressure on us."

Leroy broke out for two runs in the third inning and six in the fourth for an 8-0 win over Hatton in the opening game of the best-of-three series at Montgomery's Paterson Field.

The second game will be Wednesday at 4 p.m. If Hatton (36-7) can win, the two teams will play a deciding third game immediately afterward.

Leroy (32-20), which won its last state baseball title in 2001, continued its streak of scoring eight or more runs in each of its eight playoff wins. The Bears have scored 98 runs in the postseason, including Tuesday's game.

Hatton is in the championship series for the first time since 2003, when it was swept by Gordo.

"We knew (Leroy) was going to score, and we just hoped we could score with them," Gillespie said. "We didn't hit the ball well today, and that's a credit to their pitchers and their defensive play."

Hatton had no problem making contact in the contest, but the Hornets produced only three hits in the game.

"We were getting under the ball too much and popping up," Hatton leadoff batter Will Nichols said.

Nichols pitched four innings, striking out three and allowing seven hits. Senior Cody Cantrell relieved him, struck out two and allowed three hits in the final two innings.

Tuesday's contest started off as a pitchers' duel, with no one scoring until the bottom of the third inning.

Mathew Watkins started the scoring for Leroy, putting up the first run, driven in by Taylor White, for a 1-0 lead. Phillip Ervin also scored in the inning, putting the Bears up 2-0.

Leroy loaded the bases with two outs in the third before Nichols ended the inning with a strikeout, leaving the bases full of Bears.

The Hornets continued to put runners on base in the fourth, but could not produce any runs.

The fourth inning was the back breaker for Hatton.

Leroy put up six runs, beginning with White driving in Clint Mosley for a 3-0 lead.

The Bears again had the bases loaded in the fourth, and this time, they cashed in the opportunity. Brandon Jones' three-run triple scored Ervin, Aerick Davis and Watkins for a 6-0 advantage.

"I knew we just needed to get those runs in and blow the game open," Jones said.

Chris Weaver's two-run homer over the left field wall put up the final runs in the win.

White, a senior, got the start for Leroy on the mound, striking out three batters and allowing three hits in six innings before being relieved by Brittian Schultz.

It was White's first start of the postseason after working in relief for most of the season.

Leroy coach Danny Powell said he pulled White in the final inning to save him for Wednesday. The state allows pitchers seven innings of work in a 24-hour period.

Gillespie said his starter from Tuesday, Nichols, also would see relief action on the mound Wednesday.

"We're not going to give up," Nichols said. "We're going to come out and give it all we've got tomorrow."

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