Demopolis moves to second round with 5-3 win over ACA

R.J. Cox eyes the plate against Alabama Christian.

R.J. Cox eyes the plate against Alabama Christian.

Demopolis (13-13) will move to the second round of the state playoffs for only the second time since 2008 after beating Alabama Christian Academy 5-3 in a series-deciding game Monday.

“It’s huge for them. I think it’s huge for our coaches, our school and our community and parents,” Demopolis coach James Moody said of the importance of the playoff win for the Tiger program. “It kind of allows them some joy and a little bit of reward for the hard work; everybody in town, everybody in the school system for letting our kids get out of class all year. I just think it’s a huge series win for our program. I really do.”

The Tigers took advantage of ACA’s charity in the first inning, converting three runs without the benefit of a hit. Ryan Schroeder reached on an error and later scored on another error. Clay White and Jay Craig later scored on an error to set the advantage at 3-0.

“It’s huge for our guys. It’s all about a little confidence early and that obviously gave us some confidence,” Moody said of the first inning rally. “Part of the plan was to put the ball in play and put a little pressure on them. We did and, like I said, they made a couple of errors and we capitalized on it.”

The Eagles tightened the gap in the third when Grayson Blackwell stroked a double to plate Drew Dauphin and Chandler Taylor, cutting the deficit to 3-2.

Alabama Christian appeared poised to take the lead in the fifth inning when it had runners on second and third with nobody away. With the Demopolis infield pulled in, sophomore second baseman Chandler Barton knocked down a hard hit ball to the right side, looked the runner back to third and fired to first just in time for the first out.

“The coaches met Saturday after we played and we felt like there were some things we could do to maybe help ourselves

Jamarcus Ezell makes the call as Ryan Schroeder applies the tag on a base stealing attempt by an Alabama Christian base runner.

Jamarcus Ezell makes the call as Ryan Schroeder applies the tag on a base stealing attempt by an Alabama Christian base runner.

a little bit in some situations,” Moody said of the decision to insert Barton as a defensive replacement late in the game. “Obviously, it worked out for us. Chandler, we just put him in defensively to give us a little more range maybe and he made an unbelievable play in the seventh inning for us.”

Alabama Christian broke through on the next sequence as Nich Dodson ripped a double into the gap in left-center, scoring Taylor to tie the game. Demopolis left fielder Jay Craig barehanded the ball off the outfield grass and relayed it to Schroeder at shortstop, who turned and fired to R.J. Cox at home to cut down the go-ahead run at the plate.

The play appeared to ignite the Tigers as strung together five straight singles in the sixth inning to score two runs. Mattew Trest scored on a Tripp Perry RBI single before Clay White came in on a Schroeder base hit.

“In the middle innings, we got away from it a little bit and that’s when all those goose eggs were up there,” Moody said of the offensive approach his team adopted in the contest. “I had been able to go over and see them play last week at Marbury and see (ACA starter Michael Taylor) pitch. When he gets ahead, he likes to go up in the zone and he’s effective. We got away from our plan a little bit and that’s just a coaching point that we can continue to harp with them. I thought our kids never panicked. I thought they played with a lot of confidence. We hadn’t done that a lot this year, so that was good to see.”

The Tigers found themselves in a jam again with two outs in the sixth as three straight walks loaded the bases for ACA with the cleanup spot in the order due up. Sophomore Hunter Colyar came to the mound in relief, throwing one pitch to induce a ground ball that first baseman Jacob Rodrigues gobbled up and escorted to the bag for the nullifying out of the inning. Colyar stayed on to preserve the win with a perfect seventh inning that was aided in part by Barton chasing down a ball flared well into foul territory that appeared destined to find its way to the grass.

“Hunter, it doesn’t seem to bother him when he is on that dirt out there on that pitcher’s mound. That’s where we were. We were to that situation. He is who we had planned behind Jacob (Rodrigues),” Moody said. “Our goal was to not let their lineup see any one pitcher more than one time. We were fortunate because of the way our guys pitched allowed that to happen.”

The win is victory number 300 for Moody in his career.

“I don’t believe I’ll ever forget. I don’t,” he said of the manner in which his team claimed the milestone win. “I did not even realize that. I didn’t.”

The Tigers are set to travel to Marbury for a second round series Friday. Game times have yet to be set.

“They’re very competitive at the plate. They’re No. 1 (starting pitcher) is a left-handed kid who is very competitive,” Moody said. “We’ll have to have ourselves ready to go on the road.”