Demopolis sweeps Marbury to move to quarterfinals

4-23-2016 - Demopolis, Ala. - Luke Yelverton drives in a run in game one against Marbury.

4-23-2016 – Demopolis, Ala. – Luke Yelverton drives in a run in game one against Marbury.

Demopolis (18-8) is headed to the quarterfinals of the state baseball playoffs for the first time since 2005 after sweeping Marbury 7-6, 2-0 Friday night.

“It’s very humbling to me to be a part of that. It’s all about the kids. The kids play the game. The kids win the game. It’s a credit to a lot of teams in the past that were close and didn’t get over that hump,” Demopolis coach James Moody said. “I think the thing about his bunch is that nobody much gave them a chance. I’ll be honest with you. We had a freshman and a sophomore in that game and everybody is just stepping up. It’s huge for our program. It’s big for our school and our community. It really is.”

4-23-2016 - Demopolis, Ala. - Chandler Barton attempts to snag a high throw in game one against Marbury. Jamacus Ezell would catch the ball on the tip.

4-23-2016 – Demopolis, Ala. – Chandler Barton attempts to snag a high throw in game one against Marbury. Jamacus Ezell would catch the ball on the tip.

The Tigers clinched the series on the strength of a strong pitching performance from senior Luke Yelverton. The Spring Hill signee tossed seven shutout innings in game two, striking out nine batters and scattering three hits in the 2-0 win. Yelverton also ignited the two-run rally that proved the difference in the contest when he singled to start the fifth inning before giving way to courtesy runner Wesley Allgood.

As Jamarcus Ezell dropped a sacrifice bunt and hustled down the line, Marbury threw the ball into foul territory to advance Allgood to third base. As Marbury threw to third to try to nail Allgood, the throw sailed into foul territory again, allowing him to score. After a Demetrius Davis sacrifice bunt, Chandler Barton skied a fly ball to left to plate Ezell for the 2-0 lead.

“We kind of started this one just like we did last week game two. We just kind of got up there and we really weren’t focusing on our (at-bats) and, next thing you know, it’s fourth or fifth inning,” Moody said of his team, which had only five hits in the contest. “You kind of got to reel them back in. It’s always something small. It’s something small like a bunt that makes a difference.”

4-23-2016 - Demopolis, Ala. - Ryan Morrison came on in relief in game one against Marbury.

4-23-2016 – Demopolis, Ala. – Ryan Morrison came on in relief in game one against Marbury.

The win brought a measure of vindication for the Tigers, who felt embarrassed a season ago when they traveled to Marbury and were swept in the second round of a series that included a 12-2 rout.

“We actually put a picture up in the locker room that a girl from Marbury had posted (on social media). It’s a picture that said, ‘Did the Tigers even show up?’ Every day when we headed out to practice, it was a picture that we saw,” Yelverton said. “Of course we want to go past this, but that’s what we were building up to was this game right here and it couldn’t be bigger.”

The Tigers opened the night flat, falling to a 6-1 deficit in game one before rallying back for a 7-6 win. Yelverton gave his team a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second when he doubled in Jonathon Lewis.

“He has done a great job for us all year. He has really worked hard on shortening his swing and just letting the barrel to the work for him. When he does that, he does things like he did tonight,” Moody said of Yelverton.

Yelverton, who had four hits in the series, drew a pair of intentional walks for Marbury on the night, signaling a considerable change from a season ago when the Tigers often pinch-hit for him.

“Big progress on the mound and, obviously, the progress at the plate that he demands that attention,” Moody said of Yelverton. “He’s hitting in the seventh hole. My high school coach talked to me about eight or 10 years ago. He said, ‘Coach, go back through your book at the end of the year and look at your seven hole hitter and how many times he comes up with runners in scoring position. It’s a crucial spot in the lineup. And it’s proving true right now.”

“It meant a lot. I’m finally starting to hit the ball a little bit, which all the credit goes to the coaches,” Yelverton said. “They’ve changed a lot of stuff with me. They’ve got me seeing the ball a little bit better and I couldn’t do it without them.”

4-23-2016 - Demopolis, Ala. - Luke Yelverton strikes out a batter in game two against Marbury.

4-23-2016 – Demopolis, Ala. – Luke Yelverton strikes out a batter in game two against Marbury.

The Tigers’ 1-0 lead proved short-lived as Marbury scored four runs in the third and one in the fourth to take a 5-1 advantage. The Bulldogs added another in the fifth inning for the 6-1 advantage before the Tigers brought in junior hurler Ryan Morrison. Facing a bases-loaded situation with one out in the inning, Morrison induced a fly ball and struck out another batter to hold the game there.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Tigers scratched out a pair of runs when Davis stroked a single through the right side to plate Yelverton and Wesley Holemon, cutting the deficit to 6-3.

The Tigers scored three runs with one out in the bottom of the seventh to extend the game. R.J. Cox reached on an error to start the rally and gave way to courtesy runner Andrew Patterson. Jacob Rodrigues then singled and gave way to pinch runner Charles Casper. Lewis singled to load the bases. Morrison then stroked a fly ball to center that likely would have been deep enough to score Patterson from third before it caromed off the glove of the Marbury defender. Patterson and Casper scored on the play to cut it to 6-5. Yelverton tied the game by singling to right to plate Lewis.

Demopolis used a pair of errors to get runners on in the ninth before Marbury intentionally walked Yelverton to load the bases and pitch to Ezell. The Tiger senior stroked the walk-off single up the middle to plate Lewis and win the game.

“We just kept competing and putting the ball in play. We got some big hits in some big situations. There’s no quit in them against a very good baseball team,” Moody said.

4-23-2016 - Demopolis, Ala. - Luke Yelverton (22) watches as Jamarcus Ezell dives back to tag out a runner in game two against Marbury.

4-23-2016 – Demopolis, Ala. – Luke Yelverton (22) watches as Jamarcus Ezell dives back to tag out a runner in game two against Marbury.

Morrison worked four and two-thirds innings of one-hit baseball in relief, picking up the win while facing the minimum amount of batters.

“Outstanding job. Unbelievable. He treated the game as if it was 0-0,” Moody said of Morrison. “I talk to our guys about the importance of people that don’t start the game coming in and making a difference in the game. He took that to heart, I believe. That’s as fine a job in a pressure situation as I can ask for.”

For Moody, the comeback signals a significant maturation for his team only a season after it finished 13-15.

“I think it’s a tribute to them and the focus that they brought to the park and that they’ve thought about all year long. I think what happened to us last year in a losing effort really benefited us. I think it showed tonight,” Moody said. “Even when we got down 6-1, I don’t know if anybody thinks we come back, especially when they put their one on the hill. But they never panicked. As long as you’ve got kids battling like that, the sky’s the limit what you can do.”

Demopolis is set to face the winner of the Rehobeth and Charles Henderson series in the quarterfinals. The Tigers would travel to Charles Henderson but would host Rehobeth.

4-23-2016 - Demopolis, Ala. - R.J. Cox gets a base hit in game two against Marbury.

4-23-2016 – Demopolis, Ala. – R.J. Cox gets a base hit in game two against Marbury.