Prep Baseball AHSAA 6A STATE BASEBALL PLAYOFFS: Bearcats’ season ends with 6-1 loss to Hazel Green | The Cullman Tribune

Prep Baseball

AHSAA 6A STATE BASEBALL PLAYOFFS: Bearcats’ season ends with 6-1 loss to Hazel Green

Cooper Beck (7) rolls a double play for the ‘Cats in Saturday's 6-1 loss to Hazel Green. (Nick Griffin for The Tribune)

We all want to win every single game and we all want to finish our seasons with a win on the last day and sometimes that doesn’t happen, but there are more important things when it comes down to it.”
Coach Brent Patterson

CULLMAN - Saturday afternoon was a tough one for the Cullman Bearcats. After splitting their first two AHSAA 6A semifinal playoff games with Hazel Green Friday night, the ‘Cats dropped game three 6-1 and capped off the 2018 season at 34-10.

Hazel Green scored in the top of the first on an RBI single into center field, but the Cullman defense caught a runner at third base and limited the damage to a single run. Grayson Taylor got the start on the hill for the Bearcats, and after giving up a run in the first, stranded several Trojan baserunners in the next two innings with the help of a couple double plays in the infield.

Hazel Green made it 2-0 in the fourth with an RBI double, but the ‘Cats were able to get one back in the bottom half of the inning with a lead-off homerun from Will Morrison. Up 2-1 in the fifth inning, Hazel Green had Garrett Gustafson knock a three-run homerun over the deck in center field and to give the Trojans a 5-1 lead.

Hazel Green added one more run in the sixth on an RBI double, and the Bearcats could not come up with any offense in the final three innings. The Trojans won it 6-1 to advance to the state finals in Montgomery and end Cullman’s season at 34-10. This will be the first trip to the state championship series in the school’s history for Hazel Green.

‘Cats Head Coach Brent Patterson knew his team would have to hit to have a chance on Saturday and credited Trojans’ starter Jackson Minor for slowing down the Bearcats’ bats.

“We knew we were in a tough spot and that it was going to take some runs. Their guy came out and threw like three balls to every hitter in the first few innings and then he’d come back and find it and we’d foul a ball off and he’d find it again. Hats off to him, he got it done,” Patterson said. “I know he struggled a little with command, but the guy really competed and today we got beat by the better team. I think they were in a really good spot when they came, and we needed to have better at bats early and we didn’t. We got behind and sometimes that’s the way baseball works out.”

Patterson has helped lead the Bearcats to an appearance in Montgomery for four straight seasons and came up just one game short of a fifth straight appearance this year. Patterson is proud of the program’s consistency and credited the people around the program, on and off the field, for the team’s success.

“There’s something to be said about consistency. There’s always a target on your back and everybody is gunning for you and to be able to sustain a level of success is good, but what that is, is a testament to the parents that pour into the program and the type of kids that stick around and work their rear ends off and all these coaches and people around me that try to give them the best opportunity and prepare them as much as we possibly can,” he said.

This Cullman team replaced nearly the entire lineup from last season and got off to a rocky start in February, but Patterson is proud of this group and how they came together to win 30 of their last 35 games and finish the 2018 campaign with a Final Four appearance and a 34-10 record.

“Every season is different, and every team is different, but as far as how rewarding it was and the return on investment, this team right here grew so much, starting right about spring break,” he said. “We had good times and some really bad times and then right around spring break there were guys that stepped up and led and I think that when young men that have never had to be in leadership roles have to leave their comfort zone, that’s awfully rewarding…to see it translate on the field and taking care of the little things and taking ownership of their team, and it led to wins, too.”

He continued, “After they go through this program we hope they’re more prepared for different things in life. I look at a guy like Carson Freeman who so unselfishly played some as a sophomore, split time and didn’t get to hit a lot as a junior and a very good player, then he’s looking forward to his senior year and he tears his ACL in the last football game and he battles through that adversity. Things like that are what it’s really all about. We all want to win every single game and we all want to finish our seasons with a win on the last day and sometimes that doesn’t happen, but there are more important things when it comes down to it.”

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