By Gene Stanley/Correspondent
No. 6 Westbrook (19-12) at No. 1 Section (26-4)
Today 4:30, Sat., 1 p.m.
It’s always a shame when the best teams have to play each other early.
That is the case with this year’s second round of the Class 2A high school baseball playoffs.
Instead of meeting in the semifinals, No. 1 ranked Section and sixth-ranked Westbrook Christian – arguably the two best teams in the North Region – will face off today (April 26).
“In my opinion, these are the two best in the North,” Section coach Drew Davis said. “Sheffield is the only other one who is close and they’re in the other bracket, so we wouldn’t meet them until the semifinals.
“I honestly think that whichever team wins this series has a clear path to the finals – if they don’t let Sheffield trip them up.”
If you look only at records, Section wins this series in a cakewalk – four losses for the Lions compared to 12 for Westbrook.
However, many of Westbrook’s losses came at the hands of teams from higher classifications.
Coach Matt Kennedy believes in playing bigger teams in order to be ready for the playoffs. That strategy has worked well, with two quarterfinal and two semifinal appearances in the past four years.
“In the middle of the season, when losses don’t really matter, I would much rather lose to a good 4A or 5A team than to get a win against a smaller school,” Kennedy said. “Good competition makes you better, win or lose.”
In the first round of the playoffs, both Westbrook and Section won handily and by the mercy rule. According to the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s rules, if a team is ahead by 10 runs or more after the fifth inning, the game is called.
Westbrook beat Fyffe 10-0 and 11-0, while Section defeated West End 17-2 and 12-1.
Both coaches said their teams have a lot of similarities to each other.
“If you changed uniforms with these teams, you might not even notice by the way we play,” Davis said. “I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this series goes three games and at least one of the games goes extra innings.”
Kennedy agreed, noting, “whoever executes at the right time and doesn’t make the silly mistakes will win. This should be a truly good matchup.”
Westbrook put Section out of the playoffs the past two years, so the coaches certainly know the opposition.
“From what I’ve seen, Section has practically all of last year’s team back,” Kennedy said.