By Mike Goodson/Sports Correspondent
It has now been 30 years since the Gadsden State Community College “Confederates,” as they were called at the time, won the Alabama Junior College Conference Northern Division baseball championship, the AJCC state title and a berth in the NJCAA tournament. A group of mainly local athletes and coaches added to Gadsden being known as the City of Champions.
On April 30, 1985, Gadsden State wrapped up the Alabama Junior College Conference Northern Division championship with an 8-1, 7-6 doubleheader sweep of Calhoun to close out the season with a 20-10 overall record and 15-5 mark in the division.
Mike Hanks pitched a two-hitter in the opener as Gadsden State came back from a 1-0 deficit for the win. The Confederates scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning and six runs in the sixth to put the game out of reach.
Eric Rudolph, Terry Tolson, Bernard Rudolph, Greg Stewart and Mike Hanks led the Confederates at the plate.
The second game saw another six-run outburst by Gadsden State, with the winning run coming by way of Ives Davis’ single and score on a sacrifice fly.
On May 10-12, Gadsden State traveled to Montgomery’s Patterson Field to play in the Alabama Junior College Conference Tournament, where the Confederates went undefeated over the next four days to bring home the state championship.
Eric Rudolph went the distance in the tournament opener against Dothan, scattering six hits and three walks with four strikeouts as the Confederates took a 5-1 decision.
Greg Stewart led off the third inning with a single, followed by Eric Rudolph and Troy Price reaching on errors to load the bases. After Steve Burroughs walked to bring in the first run, Ives Davis lined a two-run single to give GSCC a 3-0 lead. Gadsden State added a pair of runs in the eighth.
Davis led the Confederates with two singles and a double and three RBI.
The following day, Gadsden State defeated Wallace-Selma, 4-1, and Chattahoochee Valley, 3-2.
Against Wallace, winning pitcher Mike Hanks allowing six hits and five walks in six and one-third innings. He helped his cause with a singe, and double and two RBI. Tommy Stanley, a freshman who was part of the 1983 Litchfield High state baseball championship, allowed two hits over the final 2 2/3 innings in recording a save.
“I was coming off of a shoulder injury and was used mainly in relief,” said Stanley, who also played in the outfield. “We played good ball at just the right time,” “We had a good mix of freshmen and sophomores and we seemed to gel at the time of this tournament.”
Stan Cox came up big in the nightcap, going 4-for-4 at the plate and pitching the ninth inning for the save. In eight and two-thirds innings, winning pitcher Dennis Jones allowing two runs, three hits and five walks while striking out six.
Chattahoochee Valley took a 2-0 lead in the first inning but Gadsden State cut the margin to 2-1 in the bottom of the second when Stan Cox and Shun Adams both singled and Terry Tolson lined an RBI base hit.
The Confederates tied the game at 2-2 in the fourth inning when Cox singled and Adams walked. Tolson’s sacrifice bunt moved the runners up, and Troy Price’s groundout brought Cox home.
With one out in the sixth, Cox singled, advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on Adams’ base hit to make it 3-2.
The victory sent Gadsden State into the finals against Wallace State-Dothan, where the Confederates pounded out 11 hits en route to a 9-1 win and the state title.
Gadsden State wasted little time in putting away the Governors, scoring three runs in the first inning and two more in the third to build a 5-0 lead. Dothan scored its lone run in the fourth to cut the margin to 5-1, but the Confederates pulled away with three more runs in the sixth inning and another in the seventh.
Stan Cox took the MVP trophy home thanks to his seven consecutive hits over a two-game stint. Davis, Adams, Hanks, Eric Rudolph and Dennis Jones made the all-tournament team.
Gadsden State set a team pitching record in giving up only three earned runs over a four game tournament. The Confederates also committed only five errors.
“We had a great tournament as a team,” said Gadsden State head coach Bill Lockridge, who was inducted into the Alabama Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in January 2012. “Every time we called someone off the bench, he did a good job.”
Gadsden State returned to Montgomery a week later for the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Southeast District playoffs, where the Confederates fell to Santa Fe (Fla.), 12-1 and Middle Georgia, 13-2, to bring their season to a close at 25-13.
“We did not play well in the national tournament,” said Stanley, who teaches and coaches at Glencoe High School. “After setting the ERA record the week before, we just couldn’t get anyone out.”
Lockridge was baseball coach at Emma Sansom High for two seasons and in 1983 took the part-time position as head baseball coach at Gadsden State in 1983. Lockridge won more than 725 ball games and captured seven conference titles with the Cardinals. He was named Alabama Community College Conference Coach Of the Year seven times and is the winningest coach at Gadsden State in any sport
“Many of our players went on to play at four year schools and several went into coaching,” he said. “That’s something “I’m really proud of.”