Spring Garden’s Welsh baffles Cedar Bluff in game one of crucial area baseball series

Spring Garden senior Cam Welsh delivers to the plate against a Cedar Bluff batter on Tuesday. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director

CEDAR BLUFF – Spring Garden senior Cam Welsh can’t remember the last time he missed a baseball practice.

He had good reason to miss on Monday.

Welsh was one of 104 Bryant-Jordan Scholarship regional award honorees at a formal banquet in their honor Monday night at the Sheraton Ballroom in Birmingham. He was the Class 1A, Region 6 scholar athlete winner.

But Welsh didn’t have long to celebrate his academic accomplishment. On Tuesday, Panther baseball coach Cole Murphy handed him the ball to pitch against area rival Cedar Bluff in game one of a series that will determine which team will make the state playoffs.

As Murphy put it, Welsh did what he does best on Tuesday against the Tigers. The Berry College signee baffled their bats. He was perfect through 3 1/3 innings before surrendering back-to-back singles to Hunter Stallings and Bryson Teague.

But by that point, Spring Garden had built a 10-run lead and eventually won 13-0 in five innings.

“It’s been a little hectic to say the least,” Welsh said of his past 24 hours. “Missing practice (Monday) was out of the norm for me. That was weird, but we come into today and put ourselves in a good position for this series in getting game one. That was important.”

Murphy said Welsh asked for the ball in Tuesday’s series opener, and for good reason. He didn’t allow a walk and finished with seven strikeouts on just 60 pitches.

“Cam came and talked to me yesterday and said ‘Coach, I want the ball tomorrow.’ We were already on the same page,” Murphy said. “Reece (Winstead) has been our game one. It just so happened Cam has been our game two, but it’s been away games. I thought Cam did a great job stepping up and being that guy. Everything worked out and we showed up and played the way we can.”

Cedar Bluff coach Jim Nelson said Cam was “lights out.”

“He filled it up,” Nelson said. “His off-speed was working when he needed it to. He just kind of had his way with us.”

Spring Garden (9-7) took control of the game early. The Panthers loaded the bases struck for three runs in the top of the first inning. They sent 13 batters to the plate and scored seven more runs in the top of the third to put the game out of reach.

“They just came out and took momentum from the get-go,” Nelson said. “It was about the fourth inning before we had a chance to kind of regroup from that opening blow. Our guys fight. They came out and came to the plate still with an approach. We strung together a couple of good hits and barreled some balls up, but it was just a combined effort of Cam being on his game and his defense playing behind him. It’s a tough combination when that happens.”

Chapel Pope, Connor Bates and Jake Welsh all posted a pair of hits for the Panthers. They each scored a pair of runs. Bates and Welsh drove in two runs while Pope accounted for another RBI.

John Welsh collected a hit, two walks and two RBIs. Winstead, Braxton Haney and Zane Edwards each added a hit. Haney was also hit by a pitch and scored twice. Winstead and Edwards both scored once. Cam Welsh walked twice and scored a run.

Alex Baty suffered the loss for Cedar Bluff (6-13). He worked 2 1/3 innings before giving way to reliever Caleb Tucker.

The two teams conclude their series on Thursday at Spring Garden beginning at 4:30 p.m.

“Tonight was huge,” Cam Welsh said. “Not just to win, but to win in that fashion. Now we go back home for senior night and hopefully close out with some wins at home.”

“We can’t come in Thursday overlooking them, thinking we’re going to get the same result just by showing up,” Murphy said. “We’ve got to come out and start off the same way. Cedar Bluff is that type of school if you back them in a corner and you give them a chance they’ll make things happen. They play really hard in those situations. We’ve got to be prepared for that on Thursday. They’re backed into a corner and they’ve got a chance to make the playoffs just like we do. We’ve got to show up with the same mentality we had today.”

“Our backs are against the wall, but we’re still in a position where our games matter,” Nelson said. “We’re still playing for two more and it’s kind of where you want to be this time of year.”

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