By Chris McCarthy/Editor
Westbrook Christian’s 1-14 start to the season is quickly becoming a distant memory.
Sparked by a pair of solid pitching performances and an offense that produced 25 hits and 36 runs, the Warriors (14-20) blew past North Sand Mountain, 23-1 and 13-0, in the first round of the Class 2A state baseball playoffs on Friday (Apr. 18) in Rainbow City.
Both games were halted in the fifth inning as per the 10-run mercy rule.
Westbrook hosts third-ranked Section on Friday in a best-of-three second round series.
“We didn’t expect the kind of offense that we had today, but it’s certainly nice to have,” said Westbrook head coach Matt Kennedy. “Other than Blaine [Beaird], we usually don’t have a whole lot of fire power on offense, we do have some speed, and we try to stay active on the basepaths. But they guys had good approaches at the plate and swung the bats well.
“Tyler [Self] and Tanner [Kennedy] both threw the ball well, and those guys weren’t even in the rotation when the season started. They worked hard and earned their opportunities. The seniors that are out there didn’t see much playing time last year, but they’ve been around the playoff stuff and understand what we’re trying to do with our baseball program.”
Beaird had a big day at the plate for the Warriors, as the senior first baseman went 6-for-7 with two home runs, seven RBI and five runs scored.
“Blaine has about 14 or 15 home runs this year, so he’s hit the ball real well for us,” said Kennedy.
Westbrook batted around the order five times in the doubleheader.
While his teammates were providing him more than enough run support, Game 1 starter Tanner Kennedy was almost perfect in the opener, as he no-hit the Bison over five innings. He fanned seven and retired the side in order in the first, second, third and fifth innings. He struck out the side in the third.
Kennedy’s lone blemish came in the top of the fourth inning, when he allowed a leadoff walk to Ian Miles. Miles was in the process of stealing third base during the next at-bat when a throwing error allowed him to score.
Before Kennedy took the mound in the top of the second, he had a 13-run cushion to work with.
After NSM starter Ben Britt retired the first two batters he faced, the host loaded the bases via walks by Beard, Kyle Leonard and Dylan McClain.
Respective RBI singles from Stephen Blackstock, Austin Lockridge and Ethan Campbell provided the Warriors with a 6-0 lead, while Leonard and Kennedy both drove in a pair of runs later in the inning to help build a 13-0 advantage.
Beard and Jake Kilgo both had doubles in the second inning to help push the lead to 17-0.
Westbrook tacked on another six runs in the fourth, highlighted by Beaird’s two-run home run over the left-centerfield wall.
“It was the same thing in every inning – just throw strikes and get ahead of the hitters,” said Tanner Kennedy. “I had that walk, so it could have been better.”
Game 2 starter Tyler Self also held the Thundering Herd offense in check, scattering three hits and two walks over four innings while fanning six. Only one of the five NSM baserunners advanced past second base, and that was in the fourth inning when the Warriors were ahead by nine runs
The Westbrook offense was limited early on to Kilgo’s score off an error in the bottom of the first inning, but three NSM errors led to a six-run Warrior third.
Self’s two-run base hit in the fourth inning made it 9-0.
Beaird’s homer in the fifth highlighted a four-run inning before Kilgo came in to pitch a scoreless bottom half and secure Westbrook’s berth in the second round.
Also at the plate for the Warriors, Kilgo went 3-for-6 with two RBI and five runs scored; Lockridge went 2-for-2 with three RBI and four runs scored; McClain went 2-for-3 with three RBI and four runs scored; Jesse Brittain had two hits, four RBI and two runs scored; and Leonard, Tanner Kennedy and Campbell each went 2-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored.
“We played Section [in the state playoffs] for the past three or four years, and to be honest, they’re probably the best team in the North [region],” said Kennedy. “They’ve got three and possibly four guys who can throw the ball well and have some good team speed. Coach [Drew] Davis does a good job up there, and they’ll be prepared for us.”