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Phil Campbell Bobcats advance to quarterfinals

The Phil Campbell Bobcats had to go to a decisive game three to put away the Hanceville Tigers, but they did just that Saturday with an 11-3 win.

With the win, Phil Campbell advances to the quarterfinals of the Class 3A state baseball playoffs for the first time since 2008 and the fourth time ever.

Sixth-ranked Phil Campbell (31-7) will host the third-ranked Winfield Pirates (33-7) Thursday at 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., with game three, if necessary, Friday at 4:30 p.m.

Winfield last made the quarterfinals in 2016. The two teams met each other earlier in the season, with Winfield winning the first matchup 2-1 and Phil Campbell winning the second time 8-5.

“If you like baseball, it should be a good series,” said Phil Campbell coach Jonathan Raper. “I think we are both very similar when it comes to pitching, defense and hitting. It is going to come down to who can make the plays and the team that makes the fewest mistakes.”

In game one of the Hanceville series, senior Nate Owens pitched a gem. Owens threw a one-hit shutout and struck out six as the Bobcats beat the Tigers 4-0.

“Other than a few early walks, Nate might have pitched his best game all year in game one,” said Raper.

The Bobcats scored three of their four runs in the first inning. Luke Barnwell, Austen Baker and Brett Saint all crossed home plate in the first inning.

Barnwell had two hits in the game. Rilan Garrison had a hit and an RBI. Ty Leindecker had a hit and an RBI.  Austen Baker had a hit and scored the other Bobcat run.

Phil Campbell had six hits, and Hanceville committed three errors, in game one.

Phil Campbell committed an uncharacteristic eight errors in game two, and it cost them the game; they lost 12-7.

“That might have been the worst game we’ve played all year,” said Raper. “We missed some routine fly balls in the outfield, and the game just got away from us.”

The errors clouded what was otherwise a great pitching performance by Baker. Eight runs were scored while Baker was on the mound, none of the earned. All of the runs came as a result of the errors. Baker allowed two hits and struck out six batters.

Baker also helped himself at the plate with thee hits and four RBIs. Freshman Mason Swinney added a hit and two runs.

Phil Campbell led 3-1 after two innings, 5-4 after three innings and 6-4 four innings before everything started to unravel. Hanceville scored four in the fifth inning to take an 8-6 lead, plus one more in the sixth and three in the seventh.

“I just told the guys after the game that we are better than this,” said Raper. “Sometimes the best teams don’t win, but the best team that day does.

“Hanceville was a lot better than the scouting report we got on them,” Raper added. “They put the ball in play and hit the ball hard. They made some great defensive plays. I just told our guys to forget about it and come to the ballpark Saturday ready to play.”

Raper’s team responded, racking up 11 hits and beating Hanceville 11-3 in game three.

Phil Campbell led the game 2-1 at the end of the first inning and extended that lead to 3-1 in the fourth inning and 5-1 in the fifth inning. The Bobcats started putting the game away in the sixth, taking an 8-3 lead.

Ridge Raper led the way on the mound and at the plate for the Bobcats. Raper allowed six hits and three runs and struck out two on the mound. At the plate, Raper had two hits, including a double and three RBIs and scored a run.

Leindecker had two hits and two RBIs and scored a run. Barnwell had two hits, including a double, and scored three runs. Baker and Owens scored two runs each. Rilan Garrison had two RBIs.