Florala claims area win over Pleasant Home in pitcher’s duel

Published 12:00 pm Friday, April 7, 2023

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Florala clinched its first state playoff bid since 2019 and claimed a pitchers’ duel at Pleasant Home, 2-1, in varsity baseball area action Thursday, April 6.

Seth Bundy had the game-winning two-run double in the sixth inning for the Wildcats. (PHOTO BY ZACK MAIO)

The fifth-ranked Wildcats improved to 9-1 overall and 6-0 in 1A Area 2. The Eagles fell to 5-11 on the year and 2-4 in 1A Area 2.

Josh Hawkins started on the mound and picked up two strikeouts in a 1-2-3 top of the first. Mason Anderson walked with one out in the bottom half before a fielder’s choice. Nathan Fowler singled and put runners at the corners with two outs, but Dalton Jackson ended the threat with a strikeout. Hawkins continued his strong start with another quick frame and needed only 11 pitches for three outs. Jackson struck out the side and kept the game scoreless after two innings.

The two pitchers were locked in with a scoreless third. After another fast frame in the fourth, Hawkins reached on an error and stole second in the bottom half. Jackson stranded the runner in scoring position with three straight outs as the pitching duel continued. FHS mounted its first threat of the game in the top of the fifth. Jackson led off with a walk before Seth Bundy singled. Jackson and Bundy each moved into scoring position with two outs but were unable to score after Hawkins delivered a clutch strikeout. Luke Gatewood took a leadoff walk for PHS in its half but was unable to advance after Jackson struck out the side once again.

Josh Hawkins gave up two unearned runs and had nine strikeouts for the Eagles in a complete-game effort. (PHOTO BY ZACK MAIO)

Florala finally broke through with a pair of runs in the top of the sixth. John Howell and Judd Goolsby each singled before Jackson reached on an error with two outs. The miscue proved costly as Bundy cashed in a golden opportunity with a two-run double and drove in Howell and Goolsby. The threat ended when Jackson was tagged out at the plate, but the score was 2-0. Pleasant Home responded back in the bottom of the frame and cut the deficit to 2-1. Hawkins laced a one-out double and scored on an RBI double from Huckabaa with two outs. Jackson maintained the lead with a huge strikeout and sent the game to the final inning.

The Wildcats mounted a two-out rally in the seventh when Wyatt Brooks walked and Johan Zamora reached on an error. Hawkins kept the score 2-1 with a groundout. The Eagles did not back down as Gatewood took first on an opening error in the bottom of the seventh. Frank Gafford was hit by a pitch with two outs and put runners at first and second. Howell closed out the game with a strikeout and finished off the area sweep.

Bundy finished 2-for-3 at the plate with the lone two RBIs. Howell and Goolsby collected the other two hits for FHS. Jackson earned the win with six strong innings. He allowed one earned run on three hits and struck out 15. Howell earned the save with two strikeouts in a scoreless inning in relief.

Huckabaa, Hawkins, and Fowler all went 1-for-3 for PHS. Hawkins took a hard-fought loss with a complete game effort. He gave up just two runs (no earned) on four hits and struck out nine.

Both teams are back in action next week. Florala will host McKenzie for senior night Monday, April 10, beginning at 5 p.m. The Wildcats will then play Kinston in a best-2-of-3 area series to determine the area champion and runner up. Pleasant Home begins the final area series of the season against Elba on Tuesday, April 11, starting at 4 p.m.