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Bobcats advance to semifinals for third straight year

The defending state champion Phil Campbell Bobcats advanced to the Class 3A semifinals for the third straight year, beating Elkmont 2-1 in three games.

Phil Campbell, 29-7, will host Piedmont, 33-4, in a rematch of this past year’s semifinal May 10 at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Game three, if necessary, will be May 11 at 4 p.m.

Phil Campbell returns three starters from this past year’s team, while Piedmont returns the bulk of its starting lineup.

“This group of kids has grown up a lot this year, but they are different from last year,” said Phil Campbell Coach Johnathan Raper. “We have had different kids stepping up at different times; we’ve started hitting from the top of the lineup to the bottom.

“Earlier in the year the bulk of our hits were coming from the top. I think we are better defensively.”

The Bobcats won game one against Elkmont 5-3 but lost to the Red Devils 6-2 in game two, forcing a decisive game three the next day, where senior Mason Swinney would take the mound for the first time since spring break in late March.

“We didn’t panic when we lost game two,” said Raper. “The kids felt like they could win, especially with Mason on the mound.

“Last year he threw every game one of the playoffs.  This was a little bit different. In a game one, you can just get out there and throw. Game three, everything is on the line. We trusted him, and he delivered.”

The long layoff led to briefly shaky start for Swinney, but it didn’t take long for the team’s lone senior to settle in to throw a two-hit shutout and strike out ten batters.

The Bobcats scored three runs in the third inning, one in the fourth and six in the fifth to blow away the Red Devils 10-0.

Kyle Pace led Phil Campbell at the plate, going three-for-three with two doubles, four RBIs and a run scored.

In games one and two of the series, the Bobcats managed five hits, all of which were extra base hits.

In game one, Phil Campbell’s only hits were triples by Swinney and Sage Raper and a double by Bryant Anthony.

Elkmont jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Phil Campbell cut the Red Devil lead to 2-1 when Raper scored on a fielder’s choice.

Phil Campbell took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the third when Jacob Barnwell and Anthony scored on an Elkmont error.

The Bobcats extended their lead to 5-2 in the bottom of the fifth on a two-RBI triple by Swinney scoring Barnwell and Anthony.

Cam Habada pitched a complete game and allowed five hits and two runs, walked three and struck out seven.

In game two, Elkmont led 1-0 after one inning and 3-0 after two innings.

Phil Campbell cut the lead to 3-1 in the top of the fourth on a double by Kyle Pace, scoring Habada. The Red Devils got one run each in the fourth, fifth and sixth inning to take a 6-1 lead. The Bobcats added their final run when Kyle Pace scored on a passed ball in the top of the seventh.

The Bobcats’ only hits in game two were doubles by Swinney and Pace.