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Apr. 16—Jeb Bartle tossed a four-hit shutout, Brennen Norton racked up three hits and scored twice, and No. 4 Cullman blanked No. 5 Hartselle 2-0 on Thursday to win the Class 6A, Area 14 title — the 10th straight area championship for the dynastic program.

Bartle scattered four hits and four strikeouts in his complete game effort, working quickly and efficiently to polish off his fantastic performance in just 88 pitches.

“It’s really exciting just because of the atmosphere here,” said Norton, a Jacksonville State signee. “All the little kids were here, and they look up to us. I looked up to us (former players) when I was little, too. We were the same way in 2019, but I feel like this team could possibly be even better than them. We have the chemistry we had and the hitting we had (in 2019). It’s great to see this. I love this team.”

Black and Gold coach Brent Patterson also complimented the atmosphere at Bill Shelton Field.

“The environment was really special,” he said. “We had a great crowd, starting with the young kids coming to run out on the field with our players. They had so much energy and enthusiasm, and it carried over to our guys as well. There aren’t many high school baseball players that get to play in a regular season game with that much excitement and energy in the park.

“The bonfire between games, the cheerleaders, and especially the band … it all created a really special atmosphere. I know the coaches and players appreciate all the folks who made it so meaningful.”

Norton, Hayden Stancil and Kaleb Heatherly hit consecutive one-out singles to load the bases in the first inning before Max Dueland’s groundout plated Norton to make it 1-0. That score held until the fifth inning, when Norton and Stancil ripped back-to-back doubles to put the Bearcats (25-10) ahead 2-0.

With the way Bartle was dealing, that two-run advantage was more than enough for the home team.

Stancil added two hits for Cullman, while Jackson Sanford, Matt Brock and Heatherly had one apiece.

“This is awesome — it’s a great team win,” said Stancil, who allowed two hits and struck out six in Tuesday’s 2-1 victory over the Tigers in Game 1. “We all played good defense, we pitched the ball well, and we had some good at-bats to go with it. If we play like we are in area, we’ll have a really good chance of moving on in the playoffs.”

Added Patterson: “Jeb picked up where Hayden left off. Their lineup is full of dangerous hitters, and he threw a ton of strikes and kept them off balance. We talk about pitching it, defending it and having competitive at-bats. I thought we did all of those things tonight. Winning an area that involves Hartselle is a real accomplishment. It’s not our overall objective, but it’s a step in the process.”

The mound efforts from Stancil and Bartle made life easy for Norton — the team’s shortstop — and the rest of the defense this week.

As for how they get to play behind top-tier arms game after game and season after season?

“I don’t really have an answer for that,” Norton said with a laugh. “That’s called the bald guy, coach P over there, and (pitching) coach (Shannon) Fondren. They’re like two peas in a pod. They hammer on one thing and then hammer on another. It works out for the best.”

Cullman finished off the season sweep shortly afterward, beating the Tigers 10-0 in five innings. See below for a capsule.

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Cullman 10, Hartselle 0

Brennen Norton: 3 hits, RBI

Kaleb Heatherly: 2 hits, RBI

Grant Morrison: hit, RBI

Hayden Stancil: hit, RBI

Austin Hurt: 3 IP, H, 4 K

Weston Horton: 2 IP, H, K

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