Wildcats claim 1A Area 2 title with sweep of Kinston

Published 11:00 am Friday, April 14, 2023

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Florala erased a six-run deficit and roared back for a 14-7 home win over Kinston in varsity baseball action Wednesday, April 12.

Florala senior Colby Strickland had three hits and threw 2 2/3 innings on the mound during a home area contest against Kinston on Wednesday. (PHOTO COURTESY OF HOPE HUNT)

The fifth-ranked Wildcats pushed their overall record to 12-1 and finished 8-0 in 1A Area 2 for their first undefeated area mark since 2004. The Bulldogs fell to 8-10 on the year and 4-4 in area play.

Owen Patterson led off the contest with a walk and scored the opening run on a balk. Cade Jones kept the inning alive with a single until Colby Strickland ended the frame. Cole Sumblin then struck out the side on 11 pitches in the bottom half of the first. Strickland followed suit and left the score 1-0 after 12 pitches in the visiting second. Dalton Jackson began the home half of the inning with a double. Strickland walked before Wyatt Brooks was hit by a pitch and loaded the bases. Sumblin avoided further damage when Jackson was caught stealing home.

Judson Green started the third with a single and advanced to second on a groundout. Tripp Hawthorne then stroked an RBI single and scored Green. Marcus Free was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and gave KHS a 3-0 lead when Hawthorne crossed the plate. Drew Branch worked around walks to Johan Zamora and Judd Goolsby and held FHS scoreless in its half.

Colby Tew and Green each walked in the fourth. Patterson hit into a fielder’s choice as an error sent Tew home. Jones reached on a miscue that plated Patterson before C.J. Lunsford made the score 6-0 on a passed ball. Seth Bundy and Rayshon Coleman were both beaned with a pitch. Strickland laid down a bunt as Bundy and Coleman scored on errors. John Howell reached on another mistake, while Strickland crossed home and sliced the deficit in half to 6-3 after four innings.

Brooks quickly retired the Bulldogs in order before the Wildcats erupted for a nine-spot in their half of the fifth. Jackson scored on a passed ball, while a two-run single by Strickland brought in Bundy and Coleman for a 6-6 tie. Howell earned an RBI single and sent Strickland to the plate for a 7-6 lead. Zane Weeks delivered a clutch two-run single as Brooks and Zamora scored. Goolsby cashed in Howell with a single, and Jackson earned a sacrifice fly. Bundy capped the scoring with an RBI single for a 12-6 lead after five innings.

Kinston loaded the bases with two outs on a pair of errors and a walk. Marcus Free was hit by a pitch and took the score to 12-7 when Lunsford scored. Florala answered right back when Zamora had an RBI single, and Howell widened the margin to 14-7 on a balk. Jackson Hughes began the seventh with a walk but could not advance as Brooks retired the next three batters.

Strickland was 3-for-3 with three runs scored and two RBIs, while Zamora went 2-for-2 with a run and an RBI. Bundy and Jackson added two hits apiece. Brooks earned the win with 3 2/3 innings in relief and gave up one unearned run on one hit and struck out two. Patterson, Hawthorne, Jones, and Green each notched one hit in the loss. Branch took the loss with eight runs (seven earned) on four hits and one strikeout in 2 1/3 innings.

Florala will close the regular season at Red Level on Monday, April 17, at 4:30 p.m. and also host a home playoff game for the first time since the 2013 season next week.