Photo: Westbrook Christian’s Andrew Dutton jumps back to first base as Vincent’s D.J. Ayala awaits the pickoff throw during the Warriors’ doubleheader sweep in the second round of the Class 2A state baseball playoffs last Saturday (Apr. 28) in Rainbow City. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy
At this rate, the 2018 Westbrook Christian baseball team could give the 1927 New York Yankees a run for their money.
A week after scoring 44 runs and allowing none against Verbena in the opening round of the Class 2A state playoffs, the Warriors (24-7) dispatched Vincent in similar fashion last Saturday (Apr. 28). Westbrook posted a 10-0, 15-0 sweep over the visiting Yellow Jackets to qualify for the state quarterfinals for the seventh time in the past 10 years. Both games ended in innings on the 10-run mercy rule.
In four games and 20 innings in this postseason, Westbrook has accumulated 56 hits, including 22 for extra bases, and scored 69 runs.
“You put that many runs on the board, you have a good chance of winning,” said Westbrook head coach Matt Kennedy. “We’ve changed our approach a little bit this year in hitting, and as you can see, they’ve taken advantage of it. When they’ve gotten balls to hit, they’ve hit them.”
The team’s pitching has been no less spectacular, as the four starting pitchers and one reliever have combined for two no-hitters, one one-hitter, five hits and just 14 baserunners, none of whom advanced past second.
“I’m real proud of how our guys threw. We basically did what we had to do today. To me, we looked a lot better defensively then we did last week. Even when you have guys who are putting zeros on the board, you still have to play good defense, because when you go this deep into the playoffs, you’re going to face guys that will put the ball in play.”
Game 1 starter Sam Dutton completely shut down the Yellow Jacket lineup, facing two batters above the minimum in five innings. After allowing a one-out walk in the top of the first inning, Dutton retired the next 10 batters until a two-out walk in the fourth. Dutton then sent down the final four Vincent batters he faced. He finished with five strikeouts.
John Ross Morgan drew a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the first to score pinch runner Fisher Glascow.
Vincent starter Caeman Jernigan retired the Warriors in order in the second inning, but in the third Cullen Stafford and Greysen Robinson both had RBI doubles. Andrew Dutton and Addison Ponder each punched through run-scoring singles as the Warriors exited the inning with a 5-0 lead.
Westbrook stranded three baserunners in the bottom of the fourth, but more than made up for it in the fifth. Robinson sent the first pitch of the inning over the leftfield fence, and Sam Dutton’s two-run double and Ponder’s RBI base hit later in the inning helped end the game on the 10-run mercy rule.
With Westbrook as the visiting team in game 2, Rainbow City’s version of Murderers Row wasted little time in feasting on the Yellow Jacket pitching.
Leading off the top of the first, Garrett Kennedy singled, stole second and third base and scored on Sam Dutton’s RBI groundout. John Ross Morgan doubled home Cullen Stafford and Andrew Dutton, and he and Addison Ponder scored later in the inning to provide the hosts with a 5-0 lead.
The Warriors continued to pour it on in the second, which was highlighted by Robinson’s three-RBI triple that helped push the advantage to 9-0.
In the third, Garret Kennedy tripled and scored on an error. Westbrook went down in order in the fourth, but a two-run double by Andrew Dutton, a two-run triple from Ponder and an RBI double by Braden Beecham made it 15-0 and ended the game on the mercy rule.
Game 2 starter Garret Kennedy twirled a four-hitter with three strikeouts. Through the first four innings, he sent down 12 of the 14 batters he faced and retired the side in order in the first and third innings. Vincent touched Kennedy for a pair of singles and a walk in the fifth, but the senior righthander ended the game by inducing a 9-2 double play.
For the series, Garret Kennedy went 6-for-8 with an RBI and two runs scored; Robinson went 3-for-6 with six RBI and two runs scored; Morgan went 3-for-5 with four RBI and three runs scored; Andrew Dutton went 3-for-6 with four RBI and four runs scored; Stafford went 3-for-5 with two RBI and five runs scored; Ponder had two RBI and four runs scored; and Sam Dutton had two hits and three runs scored.
Westbrook’s path to Montgomery must next go through top-ranked Mars Hill Bible, which hosts the Warriors this Friday (May 4) in Florence. Westbrook lost to Mars Hill in the 2012 state semifinals.
“[Mars Hill] has been an Achilles Heel of ours for a long time, so hopefully we’ll get the job done,” said Matt Kennedy.