Dothan Post 12’s Trevor Reynolds is safe at the plate after Albany Post 30 Senior team catcher Jack Bell bobbles the ball Friday in the Paul Eames Memorial Tournament. (Staff Photos: Tim Morse)
ALBANY — He’s only 15 years old, but if Jared Donalson can grasp firm control of driving a car next year like he did with his pitches Friday afternoon, he won’t have a need for driver’s education or defensive driving.
The Terrell Academy pitcher was in firm control on the mound, hurling a complete-game victory to lead the Albany American Legion Post 30 Senior team to a 3-1 victory over Dothan Post 12 in the opening day of Paul Eames Memorial Tournament. Albany also defeated Vidalia Academy earlier in the day to start the tournament 2-0.
There wasn’t anything flashy about Donalson. He simply threw strikes and let his defense make routine plays behind him, similar to what former Atlanta Braves Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux used to do. Donalson registered just two strikeouts, allowing one run on six hits.
In stifling conditions, Donalson fired mostly fastballs at Dothan, then used a biting curveball when he got ahead in the count.
“One good thing about Jared is that he gets ahead (in the count), he stays ahead,” Post 30 Senior coach Charlie Maxwell said. “When he does that, it makes things easy.”
He also got some strong defense. Catcher Jack Bell threw out three base runners attempting to steal, including a bullet to Mason Wisener in the first inning to nail Dothan’s Gage Herring, who was trying to steal third base.
But the best defensive play came in the fourth inning. With a runner on second, Dothan’s Tyler Culpepper lined a single off Donalson’s left leg that ricocheted into shallow center field. With Dothan trying to score, Post 30 center fielder Nick Bruner fired home to Bell, who cut down the potential go-ahead runner at the plate.
“We haven’t played together that much,” Donalson said. “But we work together as a team.”
The defensive play seemed to fire up Albany in the top of the fifth as they scored a pair of runs on sacrifice flies from Bell and Bruner, a pair of former Lee County standouts. That was all Donalson needed as Dothan never got a runner in scoring position the rest of the game.
It was mild payback for Albany, which had lost to Dothan earlier this summer. Maxwell said his team led 9-5 in the seventh inning of that game, but Dothan took advantage of five errors and rallied to win.
“These guys were motivated (Friday), and they wanted to get this one,” Maxwell said. “I guess they kind of wanted to show Dothan that they were a better team than what they showed a few weeks ago.”
Albany grabbed the lead in the third inning when Michael Reddick, who was pinch-running for Bell, scored when Bruner reached on an error. Bell finished 3-for-3 with an RBI to pace the six-hit attack. Wisener finished 2-for-4, while Tyler Johnson added the team’s other hit.
Donalson also helped Post 30 Senior to a 10-5 victory over Vidalia Academy earlier on Friday, working the final two-thirds of an inning to preserve the victory for starter Chance McPherson. Wisener led the way by going 3-for-4 with three RBIs. Bell and Dillon Hughes each went 2-for-4. Bell finished with two RBIs, while Hughes added one.
POST 30 JR. SPLITS: The Albany Post 30 Junior team opened the tournament with a 15-0 win against Leesburg Post 182 Junior in three innings but then lost 6-4 to Covington Post 32 Senior.
Albany flexed its muscles early against Leesburg, scoring three runs in the first inning before putting the game away with eight runs in the second inning. They added four more runs in the third inning.
Baconton Charter’s Brantley Morgan tossed a gem for Albany, allowing just one hit in three innings. Albany’s top hitters were Deerfield’s Chandler Matthews (4-4, 3 R), Lee County’s Gunnar Moss (2-2 2 R) and Miller County’s Cody Chapman (2-3 2 R).
Albany led Covington 4-0 heading into the fifth inning, but Covington plated five runs in the fifth to take the lead and then added an insurance run in the sixth inning.
Lee County’s Andrew Wingate started and pitched five innings for Albany and surrendered six hits and four runs. Pelham’s Jimmy Fackler, Matthews, Moss and Wingate all went 1-3 to lead Albany at the plate.
Albany plays again at 2:30 p.m. today against Jacksonville Post 283 before wrapping up the round-robin portion of the tournament at 5 p.m. against Tallahassee Post 13.
— Herald sports editor John Millikan contributed to this report