By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
A 12-run fourth inning propelled Class 5A, No. 6 Etowah to a 15-2 win in five innings over Class 2A, No. 5 Westbrook Christian on Tuesday (April 17) in Rainbow City.
Etowah (25-9) travels to Russellville for a best-of-three series on Friday, while Westbrook (20-8) hosts Verbena in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs.
The Warriors struck first in the bottom of the second after Brett Vice’s RBI double scored John Ross Morgan, who singled to start the inning. Westbrook had the bases loaded later in the inning, but Etowah pitcher Austin Watts managed his way out of the jam after only allowing one run.
Westbrook pitcher Garret Kennedy was perfect through two innings, but the Etowah (25-9) bats came alive in the top of the third. Bryson Bone and Will Hotalen were each hit by pitches to start the inning, and Will Noles drew a walk to load the bases.
Leadoff hitter Jarren Wright took advantage of the runners in scoring position as he knocked through an RBI single and plated Bone to even the score at 1-1. David Rutledge drew a walk that scored Hotalen to give the Blue Devils a 2-1 lead, and Dylan Robinson connected on an RBI single to score Noles and extend the advantage to 3-1 entering the bottom of the third.
After a quiet third inning for the Warriors, Etowah quickly added to its lead thanks to another boost from the bottom of the lineup.
Bone walked to start the inning, and a double from Hotalen moved Bone to third base. Noles drove Bone home with a single to increase the lead to 4-1.
Wright blasted a double to rightfield to score Hotalen and improve the lead to 5-1, and Rutledge followed that up by driving in Noles and Wright to give the Blue Devils a six-run lead. Three batters later, Dylan Robinson recorded his second RBI of the day on a single to score Austin Young to extend the lead to 8-1.
The Blue Devils batted around the order, and Bone drove home two runs to increase the margin to 10-1. Hotalen’s second at-bat of the inning was the icing on the cake for Etowah, as he thumped a home run to leftfield to give Etowah a 13-1 lead. Wright hit another double, and Rutledge earned his second RBI of the game on another walk. Finally, a sacrifice fly from Young scored Wright, and Etowah carried a 15-1 lead into the bottom of the fourth inning.
Westbrook added a lone run in the bottom of the fourth after Joseph Gilchrist plated Addison Ponder, but the Warriors couldn’t sustain anything else offensively. Caleb Burns came on in relief and struck out two batters in the fifth inning for the Blue Devils.
Etowah coach Larry Foster said his team’s hitting performance will give the Blue Devils confidence heading into their first-round playoff matchup on Friday (Apr. 20) at No. 7 Russellville.
“We did well with the bats,” Foster said. “We were working on pitching four or five guys, but we hit the ball well. (We) hit it in good spots with men on base. We’ve got the capability of being pretty good if we’ll just do it. But sometimes we don’t.
“It gives us a lot of confidence going into Russellville hitting. Those guys throwing today (for Westbrook) are no different than what we’re going to face on Friday. We’ll just have to go and do what we’ve done today.”
Hotalen went 2-for-2 with a three-run home run, a double, three RBI, one walk and three runs scored. Wright went 3-for-4 with two doubles, two RBI and two runs scored, while Robinson went 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored.
Rutledge, Zac Jones, Bone and Noles each had one hit. Rutledge had four RBIs, while Bone and Wright had two RBIs each. Noles had one RBI, and Chris Griffin scored one run for the Blue Devils.
Etowah used a different pitcher in each inning. Kam Wilson started the game and allowed one hit and zero runs in the first inning, while Watts struck out one and allowed one run on two hits in the second. Britain Nance pitched a scoreless third inning, and Zac Jones walked three and allowed one run on zero hits in the fourth inning. Burns walked one and struck out two in the final inning.
Morgan had one hit and scored one run for Westbrook, while Ponder drew three walks and scored a run. Vice had a double and an RBI.
Foster said it will be important for the Blue Devils to be consistent when the playoffs begin this weekend.
“We worked a little bit yesterday on some hitting, but we’ve got to take it to the game when we play,” he said. “If we play like we did today, we’ll be fine. You’ll win ballgames when you score 15 runs.”