By Kim West
Sam Bobo drove in the winning run and hurled a complete game as visiting No. 3 Athens Bible toppled top-ranked Shoals Christian for the second time in two days in a Tuesday afternoon game in Florence.
The Trojans (24-2) clinched the Class 1A, Area 16 title with a 3-2 comeback win over three-time defending state champion Shoals Christian, which eliminated ABS from the playoffs in 2011 and 2012.
Bobo, a righthander whose arsenal includes a two-seam and four-seam fastball, changeup and curve, allowed one earned run on five hits and two walks and struck out six in seven innings.
Lefty Will Bishop, the Flame’s All-State ace, also pitched a complete game and scattered seven hits and one walk while ringing up eight strikeouts.
Bobo had thrown 94 pitches entering the bottom of the seventh inning, but ABS coach Bill Murrell didn’t think twice about sending the senior back to the mound despite the Flame’s top three batters coming to the plate.
“Sam said ‘I want the ball,’ even at 94 pitches. He threw six pitches in the seventh, and got three outs with two pop-ups and a line drive,” Murrell said. “When Shoals Christian went ahead in the fifth, we started warming up someone but Sam was pumped because he had taken the lead (in the top of the seventh).”
Entering the top of the fifth inning, Shoals Christian was clinging to a 1-0 lead after pushing across a run in the second on an error and a RBI single. Bishop hadn’t allowed a hit until Carter Corneil and Bobo tagged him for singles in the fourth.
In the fifth, Drew Ogles had a two-out single and Jacob Hagewood followed with sharp line drive to right field that was called a ground-rule double after the ball evaded the right fielder’s attempt at a shoestring catch and rolled under the fence. But Corneil brought Olges home on a sac fly to tie the game at 1-1.
Shoals Christian went ahead again when Christian Shipe smacked an RBI single to right center field to give the Flame a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth.
After both pitchers retired the side in the sixth, Athens Bible capitalized on a tiring Bishop and manufactured two runs. Douglas Fields worked a two-strike walk, advanced to second on a sac bunt by Jeb Hagewood and stole third. After the Flame drew their infield in, Ogles hit a fielder’s choice as Fields was called safe at home when the ball trickled by the catcher to even the score at 2-2.
Murrell sent in Tyler Hudson as a pinch runner for Ogles, Jacob Hagewood hit a sharp grounder for a single and Corneil singled over the shortstop to load the bases for Bobo, who lofted a sac fly to bring in Hudson for the game-winning run.
Jacob Hagewood finished with a double and single, Corneil singled twice and Bobo had a single and drove in a run. Fields and Ogles each had a single.
“The boys have been working for these games against Shoals Christian (on Monday and Tuesday). They’ve played hard and played determined even though they were down two going into the last inning (Tuesday),” Murrell said.
Athens Bible’s only losses this season came against ranked G.W. Long, a 2A powerhouse, and St. Luke’s, the second-ranked team in 1A. The Trojans will host John Paul Catholic II and Tanner on Saturday.
ABS will host a first-round state playoff series on Friday, April 19. The Trojans could face Shoals Christian in the second round of the playoffs. ABS eliminated the Flame in the 2008 and 2009 playoffs.