Photo: Westbrook Christian’s Greysen Robinson delivers a pitch during the Warriors 9-3 loss to Mars Hill Bible in the Class 2A state baseball quarterfinals on May 4 in Florence. (Matt McKean/Florence Times-Daily)
By Jeff McIntyre/Florence Times-Daily
With the bases loaded and the scored tied 3-3 in last Monday’s deciding game of the Westbrook Christian/Mars Hill Bible state baseball quarterfinal playoff series, Clay Butler drew a walk on four pitches to bring home Colt Smith with the winning run in the Panthers’ 4-3 victory in Florence.
Mars Hill (28-10) will host Thorsby in the best-of-three semifinal series beginning Thursday, May 10. It will be Mars Hill’s third straight trip to the semifinals, where the Panthers have fallen a game short the past two years.
Mars Hill won despite getting only four hits off three Westbrook pitchers. Mars Hill drew 13 walks, however, including the game-winner.
Mars Hill had not had a hit since a bad-hop single by Cade Parrish in the third inning when the Panthers came up in the bottom of the ninth. That changed when Smith beat out a slow roller to shortstop leading off the inning.
Smith went to second on Sam Ragan’s sacrifice bunt and Brooks Thompson was intentionally walked. Both runners moved up when Peyton Higgins grounded out to the pitcher. The count then went to 3-0 on Landon Moore, whom the Warriors intentionally walked to load the bases with one out.
Butler, who entered the game at pitcher in the top of the eighth, quickly got ahead in the count. The 3-0 pitch was well off the plate and the Panthers began to celebrate as Smith touched home with the winning run.
While Mars Hill managed only four hits, Westbrook Christian (27-9) finished with 12, including a 5-for-5 performance from Greysen Robinson. The Warriors, however, left 14 men on base.
“Both of us had chances to win, and Mars Hill found a way to win at the end,” Westbrook head coach Matt Kennedy said. “We just couldn’t pick up those timely hits, but that’s just baseball, and Mars Hill did a good job of pitching. But I’m proud of my team, and hopefully we’ll be back here next year.”
Parrish pitched the first seven innings for the Panthers. He scattered nine hits and struck out just two, but the senior was consistently able to work out of jams.
Westbrook scored a run in the top of the first, but Mars Hill quickly answered. Huntley led off with a single and Parrish reached on a fielder’s choice with Huntley safe at second on a throwing error. Smith walked to load the bases, and Sam Ragan drilled a double over the leftfielder’s head to score two runs for a 2-1 lead.
Higgins drove in a run with a fielder’s choice in the third to extend the lead to 3-1. The Warriors scored a run in the fifth and tied it with a run in the sixth. That would be the final run until Mars Hill won it in the ninth.
The teams split the series’ doubleheader on May 4.
In Game 1,
Mars Hill scored four runs in the bottom of the first to take control and rode a dominating pitching performance from Colt Smith on the way to a 9-3 victory.
Smith went 4-for-4 with two home runs and six RBI and also earned the complete-game win.
The Warriors bounced back in the second game, holding off a late Mars Hill rally for a 6-5 win to force a deciding game.
Smith doubled home a run in the first, hit a two-run homer in the second and a three-run shot in the fifth.
Westbrook scored an unearned run in the first off Smith, with Andrew Dutton driving in the run with a single.
Mars Hill answered in the bottom of the inning. Cade Parrish had a one-out single and Collin Huntley followed with a base hit. Smith then lined a double down the rightfield line to score a run and Brooks Thompson then smashed a pitch over the leftfield fence for a three-run home run to put the Panthers up 4-1.
Mars Hill added to its lead in the second. Huntley drew a two-out walk and Smith crushed a 2-0 pitch for a two-run homer to left-centerfield, extending the margin to 6-1.
Westbrook got a solo home run from John Ross Morgan in the top of the fourth to make it 6-2, but Mars Hill answered in the fifth when Smith hit his second homer to almost the identical spot, this time for a three-run shot which made it 9-2.
The Warriors scored an unearned run in the top of the seventh and loaded the bases with two outs, but Smith was able to get the final out to give Mars Hill the win.
“We left some balls up in the first game and Mars Hill just mashed them,” said Westbrook head coach Matt Kennedy said. “The Smith kid was outstanding. I’ve known Jay a long time and I know how well-coached Mars Hill is, so I knew it was going to be a battle.”
Cullen Stafford had three hits to lead Westbrook.
In the second game, the Warriors jumped on top early with three runs in the bottom of the first. Samuel Dutton had a double and Andrew Dutton singled home two runs. Stafford later stole third base and scored on a throwing error to put Westbrook up 3-0.
Mars Hill cut the margin to 3-2 in the third after Smith singled home a run and Ragan drew a bases-loaded walk. The Warriors got the runs right back in the bottom of the inning on a two-run double by Greysen Robinson.
Trailing 6-3, Mars Hill tried to rally in the seventh. Huntley led off with a single, Smith walked and Ragan was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out. Seth Jacobs drew a walk to score a run, and with two outs, White walked to force in another run and cut the lead to 6-5.
Garret Kennedy got the first two outs in the inning, then Matt Kennedy brought in Andrew Dutton, who entered with the bases loaded and the tying run on third. Dutton proceeded to record the final out on his first pitch with a pop up to centerfield.
Jordan Reynolds pitched three innings in relief to get the win for the Warriors. He struck out two while allowing two hits, two walks and two runs. Samuel Dutton started and went three innings with six strikeouts, two hits, four walks and two runs.
At the plate for Westbrook, Andrew Dutton had two hits with a double and two RBI; Samuel Dutton had two hits with a double; Robinson had a two-RBI double; and Garret Kennedy had a hit.