Courtesy of Florence Times-Daily
As the final pitcher in Brooks’ late game-two meltdown against Hokes Bluff on May 8, senior Lake Spurgeon was at the center of the team’s toughest moment of the season.
Less than 48 hours later, he was at the center of the team’s best moment yet.
Spurgeon drove in five runs and Carson Daniel threw six strong innings on May 10 as Brooks defeated Hokes Bluff, 7-3, in the finale of their Class 4A semifinal series, sending the Lions into their first state championship series in four years.
The teams split the series’ doubleheader opener on May 8, with Brooks registering a 7-1 victory in game one and Hokes Bluff rallying for a 5-4 win in game 2.
“We knew coming in that Brooks has a very good team and that it would be an uphill battle,” said Hokes Bluff head coach Mike Robertson. “I thought our guys battled and we had a great comeback in the second game, but Brooks is very talented and had a lot of seniors back from last season when they went to the 5A semifinals. They hit the ball 1 through 9 [in the batting order] as well as any team I’ve seen in a while and their pitchers made pitches when they had to. I won’t be shocked if they go on and win [the state championship].”
Brooks appeared poised to sweep the series on May 8 before Hokes Bluff struck for five seventh-inning runs – four of which (three earned) were charged to Spurgeon.
On Friday, Spurgeon reached on an infield hit for Brooks’ first at-bat and eventually scored on Peyton Plants’ RBI single.
In the second, Daniel and Charlie Crowley reached base, and on the first pitch he saw, Spurgeon crushed a three-run homer to right for a 4-0 lead.
Spurgeon came up again in the fourth with no outs and Crowley and Kobe Warden in scoring position. He pulled a double down the right field line for a 6-0 lead.
Daniel, meanwhile, has pitched extensively in relief but had not started a game this season before Friday. He told head coach Jacob Fowler he wanted to pitch Game 3, and Daniel rewarded Fowler’s confidence by holding Hokes Bluff (26-5) to a fifth-inning three-run home run by Houston Edwards (pictured above).
“We felt like we had a chance after Houston’s homer,” said Robertson. “We actually had a lot of hits, but in baseball it’s a matter of doing it at the right time, and we couldn’t get the key hit when we had to. The bottom line is that Brooks just out-played us.”
Villalta’s fifth-inning RBI put Brooks up 7-3, and Junkin took over as pitcher for Daniel one batter into the seventh. Junkin got a groundout, walked a batter and then got two more groundouts to end the series.
Hokes Bluff starter Caleb McGinnis scattered six hits, five earned runs and two walks while striking out three in three innings. In three innings in relief, Edwards gave up two hits, one run, and four walks with two strikeouts.
At the plate for the Eagles, Carson Eubanks had three hits, followed by Edward and Dylan Teague with two each.
“I told our players (after the game) that it wasn’t a super-great year because we didn’t win state, but to go 26-5 with our schedule is an accomplishment,” said Robertson. “We saw everybody’s best [pitcher] and we made it through three [playoff] rounds and to the third game of a fourth.”
Publisher/Editor Chris McCarthy contributed to this article.