Postseason baseball is returning to Albertville for the first time since 2003, when the Aggies lost to Hartselle in the second round.
Friday night, Area 13 runner-up Albertville (18-14) will host Area 14 champion Cullman in the opening round of the Class 6A state playoffs. Game times are 4:30 and 6:30.
The if-necessary game is scheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m.
Area champions are supposed to host area runners-up in round one, but problems with Cullman’s new artificial turf forced the Bearcats to seek an alternate site.
“[Cullman] Coach [Brent] Patterson and I talked a long time Monday,” AHS head coach Matthew Lambert said.
“I don’t know when they started their project, but Coach Patterson said it was supposed to take 75 days to get his field done, and it’s way, way past 75 days. They were supposed to have been able to play Hartselle on their field last Tuesday.”
Cullman’s coaches and administrators realized they have a problem when a hard rain left pools of water on the field that took more than an hour to drain.
“They knew something was bad wrong with the drainage system to allow water to stay pooled up on the field,” Lambert said. “It can rain a foot in an hour here [on the artificial turf at Sheldon Elmore Park], and you never see it puddle up. It drains that fast.
“Coach Patterson said they were removing the pellets and sand that make it playable so they could cut the turf open and see what’s going on.”
Cullman beat Hartselle to win the Area 14 championship. Legendary Hartselle head coach William Booth offered the Tigers’ field as a site for the AHS-Cullman series, but Patterson declined due to the rainy forecast for Thursday.
“Coach Patterson was scared to death Hartselle’s field might be under water,” Lambert said. “He told me yours will be perfect, and he asked if there was any way they could come and play at our place.
“I was pumped when he asked me that, and I told him absolutely. When I told my kids about it, they responded how I hoped they would respond — they were excited.”
Cullman will be the home team in game one and game three (if necessary). AHS will be the home team in game two.
“I told Coach Patterson you wear your home white uniforms,” Lambert said. “They’ll take up the gate and we’ll run the press box. I said we’ll make it as much of a home game for you as we can make it, but we’re going to stay in our dugout.”
The Bearcats are making their 19th consecutive state playoff appearance. They won state championships in 2002, 2007, 2008 and 2015.
Cullman advanced to the state finals every year from 2014-17. Eventual champion Hazel Green beat the Bearcats in the 6A semifinals in 2018.
“If you can find a way to win a series against an opponent like Cullman, it can have lasting effects on your program,” Lambert said. “I tell our kids it takes a little bit of belief and faith to do special things.”
Aggies beat Fort Payne
Albertville secured its third consecutive state playoff berth by beating Fort Payne 7-4 in the nightcap of an April 11 doubleheader at Fort Payne.
The Wildcats rallied to win the opener 7-6 and force a decisive second game to determine the Area 13 runner-up.
Caleb Marsh’s RBI single gave the Aggies a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Fort Payne grabbed a 2-1 advantage in the fourth inning.
Albertville reclaimed the lead for good behind a four-run fifth inning that featured clutch hits by Jackson Scott and Kaleb Hanvey. The Aggies scored their fourth run on a wild pitch and their fifth run on a passed ball.
The Wildcats trimmed it to 5-4 in their half of the fifth inning.
Isaiah Pankey and Hayden Mann delivered doubles in the Albertville sixth, with Mann’s hit driving in Pankey. Mann scored on a passed ball, making it 7-4.
Justin Cantrell threw a complete game to earn the win.