Auburn edges Hewitt-Trussville 1-0 for baseball state title
By Justin Nails, Trussville Tribune Sports
MONTGOMERY –Hewitt-Trussville has made the 7A championship series two times in the last three seasons, facing Auburn High School, who made their third straight appearance, both times. It may have taken the Tiger seniors three tries but the third one was a charm as Coach Matt Cimo and Auburn defeat Hewitt-Trussville 1-0 for the 7A state championship.
Auburn pitcher Drew Jennings made quick work of the Huskies in the top of the first getting Ed Johnson to ground out to third. Carson Skipper popped out to left field and Tyler Mauldin struck out to end the top of the first.
Auburn threatened to score in the bottom half of the first as Speaks singled thanks to a big hop to the pitcher with one out. After Husky pitcher Michael Fowler recorded his first strikeout of the game, a wild pitch sent Speaks to second. Fowler then walked Brooks Fuller and Ryan Lambert to load the bases. Fowler then settled in and forced Carter Hunt to fly out to left field stranding all three batters.
The Huskies got some help from the Tigers defense as both Preston Jones and Jacob reached on errors by the shortstop but couldn’t capitalize as both Caden Kirk and Zach Defnall popped out and Michael Fowler grounded out to end the inning.
The Huskies made a pitching change in the second inning bringing in Davis Burgin after Fowler complained of elbow pain. Burgin recorded two quick strikeouts getting Tanner Jones looking and Clayton Phillips swinging to lead off the bottom of the second inning. Carson Plan popped out to center field to end the inning.
Jennings made quick work of the Huskies in the top of the third getting Keith Lanum to pop out before striking both Johnson and Skipper out. Auburn struck first in the bottom of the third after Garrett Morris reached on a walk. Morris was able to steal second before moving over to third on a Griffin Speaks single. Jackson Arnold drove in the first run of the day on a sacrifice fly to right field scoring Morris and giving Auburn a 1-0 lead. Burgin got some defensive help as catcher Evan Kirk caught Speaks stealing second and got Ryan Lambert to ground out to end the inning.
Mauldin led off the top of the fourth with a blooper to shallow center field. Evan Kirk gifted the Tigers defense with a ground ball to short allowing the Tigers to turn a double play. Jones grounded out to second to end the top of the fourth for the Huskies. In the bottom half of the fourth, Jones reached on a single to left field with one out and reached second on a wild pitch but was left stranded after Plan flied out to left field.
The Huskies left one stranded in the top of the fifth as Burgin walked with two outs but couldn’t advance as Lanum grounded out to third to retire the side. The Tigers began the bottom of the fifth with Morris getting hit by a pitch but was thrown out by Kirk in an attempt to steal second. Both Speaks and Arnold grounded out to Husky shortstop Ed Johnson to end the inning.
The Huskies had a great opportunity to score in the top of the sixth as Mauldin singled to left field to start the inning. Creed Parker was brought in as a pinch runner. Kirk reached on a walk and both Parker and Kirk stole third and second respectively giving the Huskies runners in scoring position with two outs. But it was not meant to be as Jones struck out looking to end the inning.
Ed Johnson provided the Huskies with some fantastic defense in the bottom of the sixth as he recorded the first out after backhanding a deep shot to short and throwing out Brooks Fuller just in time. After Ryan Lambert singled to center field, Hunt hit into an inning ending double play turned by Johnson and Mauldin to retire the side.
The Huskies threatened again in the top of the seventh as Bishop singled to third and advanced to second after a wild throw to the first baseman. Defnall moved Bishop over to third on a sacrifice bunt but the Tigers defense made back-to-back plays in the field to secure the win and the 7A title for Coach Cimo, his third title as coach at Auburn.
After the game, Coach Cimo spoke on his Auburn team and their win, “The win is great but the journey to get here is the real blessing.”
Starting pitcher Drew Jennings spoke about his mindset and plan of attack against the Huskies. “I threw a lot of curveballs today,” Jennings said. “I wanted to catch them off guard with my off-speed stuff.” Coach Cimo also talked about his players finishing the season ranked number one in the state. “When the polls ranked us number one, these guys took that as a challenge and for them to finish number one is really special.”
Hewitt-Trussville head coach Jeff Mauldin also spoke highly of this Husky team and the four seniors that lead this team to Montgomery. “You know, everyone sees what happens on the field, but the leadership shown by these guys, in the locker room, in the weight room, that’s what I’ll remember most about these guys.
Mauldin spoke about his decision to pull Fowler out of the game in the second inning after Fowler complained about pain in his elbow. “Burgin did what he has for us all season in coming in and relieving Fowler like he did. He did a great job and I always tell our players that one run doesn’t beat you but unfortunately today it happened.”
Mauldin also spoke about the expectations for the young guys coming back next year and how they will prepare for next season. “I don’t need to tell these guys anything. They know what the expectations are here at Hewitt-Trussville and they are willing to make the sacrifice to get here. Most coaches won’t talk about Montgomery before and during the season but we do. I can’t predict wins and losses but I do know that we will make it back to Montgomery.”