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Troy Jr. Dixie Boys defeat Opelika, 9-2

SCOTTSBORO – Even as the Troy 13-year-old’s were singing “Happy Birthday” to a teammate’s little brother after the game Sunday night, their coaches were thinking about the game ahead on Monday.

“I’m excited for the guys,” Coach Gary Fox said just minutes after the Troy Junior Dixie Boys defeated Opelika 9-2 in their second game of the state tournament. “Tonight I told them to enjoy it, but it’s like we’ve got to go back to work tomorrow.”

And work means facing Westside, 1-1 in tournament play, at 8 p.m., to determine who will advance to the championship game of the state tournament.

Meanwhile, the team was relishing in the second win of the day, a win that came just hours after defeating Hartselle 14-0 earlier that afternoon.

“Today was a big day for us,” Fox said. And at the end of the day, one thing stuck out in Fox’s mind: pitching.

“I think everybody knows some of these guys struggled in (the district tournament),” Fox said. “It was really good to see them step up and see them pitch like they know they can do.”

With pitch count limits a factor in tournament play, and a factor complicated by a rain delays and doubled-up game days, Fox said pitching is a key factor in his team’s first two wins.

Austin Ingram and Xavius Burden combined early in the day against Hartselle, while Chase Hartley and Jason Fleming combined for the win against Opelika.

“The first thing Jason said when he came off the field after pitching was, ‘that was much better than Eufaula, huh Coach?’,” Fox said. “And he was right.”

Fleming, who got the save on the night, pitched two and two-thirds innings, giving up no hits, no runs and no walks with five strikeouts.

Hartley, who pitched four and a third innings for the win, gave up only two runs on five hits, with two strikeouts and two walks.

“You know, Coach Brett Stallworth has really done a great job with these guys,” Fox said of the pitchers. “And they stepped up today.”

Troy started off slowly in the game, waiting until the top of the second inning to get on the board. With Rush Hixon and Fleming reaching on walks, followed by a single by Baylor Barners, Ingram was able to drive in two runs with a single. Hunter Baggett followed with a hit to the centerfield fence, driving in two more runs and giving Troy a 4-0 lead.

Opelika answered with a run in the bottom of the second, before Baggett made an unassisted double play at shortstop to end the inning.

Troy scored again in the top of the fourth, with a single by Baylor Barnes followed by a single by Baggett.

In the top of the fifth, Fleming reaches after being hit by a pitch and Devin Hooks singled to leftfield. A single by Baylor Barnes drove in a run, giving Troy a 6-1 lead before a three-run homer by Ingram put Troy ahead 9-1.

In the bottom of the fifth, Opelika scored its second run with a base hit, aggressive base running and a sacrifice fly to right field.

“I’ve got to hand it to Opelika’s outfield,” Fox said. “A lot of our outs were well hit balls. Hats off to Opelika’s outfield.”

At the plate, Ingram was 2 for 3, with two runs scored, one home run and five RBIs; Baggett was 2 for 5, with three RBIs; Burden was 2 for 4; Hartley was 1 for 4; Reilly Fox as 1 for 4; Rush Hixon was 1 for 3 with a walk and one run scored; Fleming was 1 for 2, hit by a pitch, with a walk and two runs scored; Devin Hooks was 1 for 2 with a walk and two runs scored; Patrick Henderson was 0 for 1; Baylor Barnes was 3 for 3 with one RBI and two runs scored; and Wright Graning was 0 for 1.

Opelika and Hartselle will play at 6 p.m. Tuesday in an elimination game. The winner will advance to the championship game.

Troy, 2-0, and Westside, 1-1, play at 8 p.m. If Troy wins, the team automatically advances to the championship game, which is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday. If Westside win, three teams will have one loss, forcing a bye draw and play-in game.