FLORENCE — Another playoff series, another sweep for the Shoals Christian baseball team.
The Shoals Christian baseball team found itself in a familiar position on Friday. With a convincing 11-2 win in the first of its best-of-three quarterfinal series against Cedar Bluff already in the books, the Flame closed out the series with a 4-2 victory in the nightcap to run its playoff winning streak to 23 consecutive games.
Shoals Christian (28-21) advance to play South Lamar, which eliminated Gaston in two games.
Coach Jason Anderson said the key to the series was not getting complacent after the first game.
“I told the guys that winning just one game determines nothing,” said Anderson, who has his team two wins away from a third consecutive appearance in the Class 1A state championship game. “Cedar Bluff is an excellent team that would not give up. They had some tough luck with injuries tonight, but we still needed to play well and I thought we did that.”
After retiring the first six batters in the opener, Cedar Bluff ace Curtis Abernathy injured his throwing arm on a strikeout to end the bottom of the second inning. He threw two pitches in the bottom of the third before being relieved, opening the door for the Flame bats.
An RBI single by Cooper Melvin started a four-run inning for Shoals Christian in the third inning. The Flame added runs on a sacrifice fly, another RBI single and a wild pitch to take the 4-0 lead.
Cedar Bluff cut the lead to 4-2 in the top of the fourth before the Flame used a six-run in the bottom of the inning to take control. Shoals Christian sent 11 batters to the plate and took advantage of an error.
After Devan Traglia’s double scored Cory McLeary from second, Will Bishop’s single up the middle scored two more runs to give the Flame a 7-2 lead.
Aaron Bowman drove in Bishop with a double, then scored himself on a single by Tanner Bozeman. The Flame also got a run on an RBI single by Christian Shipe. The final run came in the bottom of the sixth inning when Mitchell Boyd singled home pinch-runner Matthew Durham.
Traglia was 3-for-4 with an RBI while Charlie Kelley also drove in a run and finished 2-for-3. Bishop drove in three runs and was the winning pitcher. The junior scattered six hits and struck out nine batters in six innings. Both of Cedar Bluff’s runs were unearned.
“I knew our bats were going to come around,” Bishop said. “Once they did, it really helped me settle down and hit my spots.”
In the second game, the Flame held off a late Cedar Bluff rally to clinch the series. Trailing 3-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Tigers scored twice to trim the deficit to a single run.
With runners at second and third with two outs, Traglia got Dalton Cosby to pop outp to end the threat. He then retired all three batters in the seventh for the win. Both Traglia and Bishop each struck out nine and threw 100 pitches.
Shoals Christian took an early lead with single runs in the top of the first and second innings. Shipe drew a bases-loaded walk to score the game’s first run. In the second, a two-out double by Traglia led to an RBI -ingle by Bishop.
“Every time I got on base, Will drove me in,” said Traglia, who finished the day 5-for-8 at the plate with four doubles.
Bowman drove in the final run with a single.