By Joshua Price/Sports Editor
Westbrook Christian rode the arm of pitcher Matt Reaves and used a steady offensive attack to close out its Class 2A second round varsity baseball series against visiting Section, 10-2.
Reaves pitched a complete game for the Warriors in the crucial rubber match, giving up four hits and two earned runs over seven innings. Reaves broke his own record for innings pitched in a game and total number of pitches (97). Most importantly, he did not allow a hit for five consecutive innings, surrendering bases on three walks and two errors.
“We gave up too many 0-1 and 0-2 hits last night,” Reaves said. “I knew this was my chance and I had to step up, that this was my moment. This was a team effort, my teammates backed me up great today.”
Westbrook head coach Matt Kennedy said Reaves’ performance what just what the Warriors needed.
“We feel like we have five guys we can throw at anytime. Matt did a great job for us today and he kept us in the game for the first three innings. We threw him against (Class 6A, fourth-ranked) Oxford and (Class 4A) Alexandria earlier in the season to prepare him for games like this. I can’t say enough about his efforts today.”
Back-to-back doubles by Ross Anderson and Cody Goff in the bottom of the first inning gave the Lions a 1-0 lead.
Westbrook hit blistering shots off of lanky Section pitcher Chase McRae for the first three innings, but were directly at the Lion defenders.
McRae did not have as much success during his second trip through the Warriors’ lineup.
“We felt like once we saw that guy the second time around we would hit him, and we did,” Kennedy said. “Once we get through the lineup one time we hit them unless they are overpowering us.
And hit him they did. The Warriors recorded five hits in the fourth inning, which produced four runs.
Reaves led the rally with a one-out double and scored moments later when Hayden Hendrick singled to centerfield. Jonathan Ford singled, but throwing errors by Section scored Hendrick and Ford advanced to third. Blaine Beaird ripped a single up the middle to score Ford, and the Warriors led 4-1.
Westbrook scored again in the fifth inning. McCrae walked Reaves and Hendrick to start the inning. Beaird earned another RBI with a sacrifice fly to right field, giving the Warriors 5-1 lead.
Jake Kilgo started Westbrook’s sixth inning offensive rally. The sophomore hustled to earn an infield single, stole second base, and scored when Mikhail Cazenave ripped a double to left field. Hendrick doubled two batters later to plate Cazenave, extending the Warrior lead to 7-1.
Westbrook played a little ‘small-ball’ in the seventh inning to plate three more runs. Beaird, Clay Templeton and John Mayfield each scored runs to increase the Warrior’s lead to 10-1.
Kennedy said he could not take a chance on letting Section paw back into the match.
“We couldn’t hold the lead yesterday. We normally don’t run on our opponents when we get a big lead like today, but we couldn’t risk it. Section is to dangerous of a team.”
Kennedy was right about on the money with that call. Section catcher Dylan Carson led the bottom of the seventh inning off with a single – his team’s first hit on the stingy Reaves since the first inning. A pair of Westbrook errors allowed Carson to round the bases, closing the scoring out at 10-2.
Kennedy said Section was a much improved ball team since last season, when the Warriors defeated them in the second round of the playoffs.
“Hats off to Section, they came in and done a great job. They played well last night and played hard today.”
Hendrick paced the Warriors offensively, batting 2-for-3 with a walk, a double, two RBIs and a run scored. Reaves slapped a double and scored two runs, while Beaird earned a pair of runs and RBIs. Outfielders Kilgo, Clay Templeton and Josh Calhoun are noted for their efficient defensive play, which solidified Reaves’ pitching performance.
Wetbrook (26-11) will face Class 2A’s top-ranked Mars Hill (32-6) on May 4 in a three-game series. The first pitch is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. at William Stewart Field.
Westbrook is familiar with Mars Hill. The Panthers ousted the Warriors from the playoffs in 2010 and went on to win the Class 2A state championship. Kennedy is confident in his team’s chances this time around.
“We faced them two years ago and have two great lefties [returning from that team]. There are some things we need to work on, but we will practice everyday as usual and hopefully take care of business.”
Kennedy praised the play of his team, who watched a two-run dwindle away in the waning innings of the second game of the series on April 27. Kennedy said the Warriors looked like a completely different team in game three.
“This is why it’s a series. I told them to go out, have fun and play like they were eleven or twelve years old. We talk a lot about perserverance and effort. It takes all-out effort all the time to win. Everybody stepped it up today. We got after it on the base paths and in the field. That’s the kind of effort we have to have every time we go out. God’s been good to us this year. Nobody really expected us to go this far this season, but He’s taken good care of us. Sometimes in life the blessings you get aren’t expected.”