By Erik Harris
North Jefferson News
GARDENDALE — A key 6A Area 12 series was won on Friday night when the area’s top two contenders settled their three-game skirmish with a doubleheader.
Gardendale dropped both games, 10-3 in the opener and a 7-3 nightcap, to take a second-place seat behind tenth-ranked Hewitt-Trussville in the area standings.
The Rockets had traveled to Hewitt on Tuesday to hand the Huskies their first area loss of the season.
“We played really poorly tonight,” said Gardendale coach Pat Keedy. “I’m disappointed, and I think all our kids are disappointed after playing great Tuesday.”
Both contests were dictated by big innings from the visitors that broke Gardendale’s will and made for a long night at the ballpark for home fans.
Game one was knotted at one before a devastating eight-run fourth inning was engineered by Trussville to put the game out of reach.
“Everything went right for them and nothing went right for us in that inning,” said Keedy of the fourth.
Though the numbers were smaller, the Huskies’ bite was equally effective in game two when they damaged the Rockets with a four-run second.
Senior Chris Walton threw four complete innings in the opener, while righty Alec Talley went all the way for Trussville. Walton was relieved by Chase Graveman in the fifth at the bottom of a 9-1 hole. Graveman allowed one run in his three innings of work.
Walton battled 13 Huskies in the cruel fourth. He allowed only one extra-base hit, but the five hits, two errors and two free passes to first base were enough tear the game wide open.
Catcher Jake Freeman and designated hitter Seth Alford did the damage for Gardendale. Alford tied the game at 1-1 with a towering homer over the left field wall — the Rockets’ first dinger on their home field this season — and Freeman placed a two-run double into the right-center gap.
The Rockets were outhit 11 to 5 by their area foe.
Game two offered much of the same as Trussville’s combination of lefty Bill Brown and righty Michael Busby surrendered only one hit (a two-run single off the bat of Carter Burns in the seventh) to the Gardendale lineup.
The Rockets threw four different arms at Hewitt — Bryce Jay, Dalton Moore, Reed Elkins and Mason Gooch. The four combined for six strikeouts, nine walks and two hit batsmen.
The Huskies left the bases loaded in the fourth and fifth innings, allowing Gardendale to pull to within four. But William Stokes’ sacrifice fly, followed by Brent Robson’s RBI single in the seventh, made a Rocket rally unlikely.
“We have to regroup, get in the playoffs and go from there,” said Keedy.