Photo: Westbrook Christian’s Greysen Robinson delivers a pitch during the Warriors’ series sweep over Verbena in the first round of the Class 2A state baseball playoffs last Friday (Apr. 20) in Rainbow City. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy
The Westbrook Christian baseball team made sure that Verbena had no reason to spend last Friday night at a local hotel.
The Warriors administered a 31-0, 13-0 sweep over the Red Devils in the first round of the Class 2A state playoffs on Apr. 20. Both games ended in the fifth inning on the 10-run mercy rule.
Westbrook (22-7) will host Vincent (18-11) in a second-round series this Friday (Aug. 27).
The final scores were indicative of how thorough a defeat Verbena suffered. The Warrior offense racked up 37 hits, including 12 for extra bases, and batted around the order three times.
Verbena didn’t help itself on defense in committing 10 fielding errors and hitting nine batters.
“Getting through the first round is always a big thing, because you don’t know much about the other team,” said Westbrook head coach Matt Kennedy. “I was proud of our guy for staying focused the whole time through the two games. You could tell that it mattered to them. Our focus was good all week.
“Defensively, we made plays when we had to. We had a few [errors] early on, but we’ll fix that. [Scoring 44 runs] isn’t going to happen in every series, but it makes you relax as a coach. I think that part of it is that we’ve played good competition all year.”
The pitching performance was just as dominant. Three Westbrook pitchers combined for no runs, one hit and no walks while striking out 19. The Red Devils (3-16) managed just six baserunners, none of whom advanced past second base.
Grayson Robinson tossed a no-hitter in the opener. Through the first three innings, he allowed one baserunner on an error and retired the side in order in the second and third innings. After Braden Beacham retired the side in order in the top of the third, Roberson returned for the fourth and sandwiched three strikeouts around a hit-by-pitch.
Meanwhile, the hosts crossed the plate early and often in the bottom of the first. The highlight was Garret Kennedy’s grand slam that provided the hosts with a 10-0 advantage with no outs in the inning. With the bases loaded, the senior shortstop deposited an 0-2 offering over the leftfield fence.
“I was just choking up and hoping to put the ball in play,” he said. “We had big hits all around, and everybody contributed. When we come together like this, we’re going to be hard to stop.”
Kennedy and John Ross Morgan each had an RBI double in the inning, while Court Coley had a pair of two-run singles.
By the time the Red Devils recorded the final out of the inning, the Warriors led 18-0.
Robinson helped his cause in the second with a two-run double, helping Westbrook go ahead 21-0.
The Warrior half of the third inning featured a two-run double by Addison Ponder and a bases-clearing single from Cullen Stafford, making it 28-0.
Morgan, Ponder and Beacham scored in the bottom of the fourth to close out the scoring.
Jordan Reynolds picked up where Robison left off in the second game. In five innings, he fanned 10 and did not walk a batter. Reynolds retired 13 of the first 15 batters he faced, with his only blemishes being a hit batter in the second inning and base hit in the fourth. In the fifth and final inning, he hit a batter and gave up a base hit before closing out the game with a strikeout.
“Grayson and Jordan did a great job,” said Kennedy. “You can’t gripe too much about [allowing] one hit in two games.”
Garret Kennedy, Sam Dutton, Stafford, Andrew Dutton, Morgan and Ponder all scored in the top of the first, while Robinson’s three-run double in the second helped push the Westbrook advantage to 12-0. Robison wasn’t quite finished as his single in the third inning plated Andrew Dutton for the final margin.
For the series, Garret Kennedy went 5-for-8 with six RBI and five runs scored; Morgan went 6-for-8 with six RBI and seven runs scored; Joseph Gilchrist went 4-for-8 with five RBI and four runs scored; Coley went 3-for-4 with four RBI; Robinson went 4-for-6 with four RBI; Sam Dutton went 3-for-6 with three RBI and four runs scored; Stafford went 2-for-4 with four RBI and four runs scored; Ponder had two hits, two RBI and seven runs scored; and Andrew Dutton had two hits, two RBI and four runs scored.
“I was proud of how the guys responded after not playing in almost four days,” said Matt Kennedy. “They went out and they executed. Week to week and now round to round, you’ve just got to stay focused, and we’ve done a good job of that all year. We’ll just pray that it continues.”