Apr. 14—HARTSELLE — When Hartselle and Cullman meet on the baseball field, the key question most of the time is which player or players will take control of the game.
Tuesday in Hartselle the answer was Cullman pitcher Hayden Stancil. He limited Hartselle to just two hits and four base runners while striking out six and walking one while throwing a complete game on 93 pitches.
That was the perfect formula for a 2-1 Cullman victory.
“We felt like we were prepared, but we just couldn’t square up a pitch,” Hartselle first baseman Brodie Morrow. “Then I think we let it go to our heads.”
Stancil had a no-hitter through 5 2/3 innings on just 70 pitches. His 71st pitch was a single up the middle by Hartselle leadoff hitter Eli Snelson, who was left stranded at first.
Hartselle’s lone run came in the bottom of the seventh when Elliott Bray led off with a single, moved to second on a wild pitch, got to third on a ground out to second and scored on a ground out to short by Peyton Steele.
Bray was the only Hartselle baserunner to get past first base.
“It was just a tight game with both pitchers throwing really well,” Hartselle coach William Booth said. “Their guy was just a little bit better today.”
Hartselle starting pitcher Caleb Pittman also threw a complete game. On 110 pitches he allowed Cullman just five hits and one extra base hit. He struck out five and walked just one.
Pittman was forced to throw in some stressful situations. Cullman had the leadoff batter reach base in each of the first four innings and in five of the first six innings. They left five runners on base.
The Bearcats’ first run came in the second when Jake Dueland singled, moved to second on a fielder’s choice and scored on Ponder Paxton’s single.
Cullman scored again in the third when Brennen Norton led off with a double. He later scored on Dueland’s groundout to third.
“It was a frustrating day, but we still have Thursday,” Morrow said. “That’s just baseball.”
The series moves to Cullman on Thursday for a doubleheader starting at 4 p.m. Hartselle must win both games to be the Class 6A, Area 8 champion. Both teams have secured spots in the state playoffs that begin next week.
The Tigers are trying to snap a streak that has left this rivalry a little lopsided in favor of the Bearcats in recent years. Hartselle has not won a series vs. Cullman since 2013. The Tigers have not won an area championship since 2010, even though they were state champions in 2013.
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