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Hartselle drops Game 1 to Hillcrest, needs two wins for state title

May 16—OXFORD — The Hartselle Tigers have been here before.

Hartselle fell to Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa 14-3 in five innings Thursday in Game 1 of the Class 6A state baseball series. While that might affect some teams, its nothing the Tigers haven't experienced before.

"I think we're just worried about getting something to eat right now," said senior JoJo Williamson. "That was just Game 1, and it's done. There's nothing we can do about it now. We're going to get some food, get some rest, and we're going to regroup."

The Tigers' confidence is understandable. Just last week, Hartselle lost Game 1 of the Class 6A semifinals to Oxford 11-1 but rebounded to win the next two games.

"We're staying positive because that game is over," senior Cade Miles said. "We just take things one game at a time, one pitch at a time."

The first at bat Thursday was an omen of how the game would go, as Hillcrest led off with a solo home run. Hartselle tied the game in the bottom of the first, with Brody Leathers scoring on an error, but that would be as close as the game would get.

Hillcrest scored two runs in the third inning, before blowing the game open in the fourth with five runs. The Patriots scored six more in the fifth.

Hartselle added two runs in the fifth with Cade Miles and Cam Palahach driving in runs on sacrifice flies.

Lawson Williams and Asher Doepel led the Tigers with two hits each.

It's an emotional time for Hartselle as the Tigers mourn the death of longtime head coach William Booth, who died Wednesday. Coaches and players were quick to say that wasn't an excuse.

"It's a tough situation, but we're just trying to focus on us," Hartselle coach Jake Miles said. "He (Booth) would be frustrated if he knew we were talking about him and not the game. If he were here, after that game, he would probably take us and go practice."

Hartselle will face Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa on Friday at 10 a.m. for Game 2 at Jacksonville State University. Game 3 will immediately follow if needed.

Hartselle will have to win both to win its 10th state championship.

"Everybody says you have to win two tomorrow, but you can't win two if you don't win one," Jake Miles said. "Our goal is we need to win one tomorrow, and after we win one, we can focus on the other.

"We're just like every other team, we've had good days and we've had bad days, but when we have had bad days, we've always picked ourselves up off the mat, and I expect us to do the same thing tomorrow."

caleb.suggs@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2395. Twitter @CalebSuggs2