Photo: Coosa Christian’s Clete O’Bryant delivers a pitch during the Conquerors’ sweep of Addison in the first round of the Class 1A state baseball playoffs on Friday, April 21 in Gadsden.
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
The Coosa Christian baseball team certainly had its hands full against Addison in the first round of the Class 1A state baseball playoffs on Friday, April 21 in Gadsden.
The No. 8 Conquerors (22-10) nearly blew an eight-run lead in the opener before holding off the Bulldogs for an 8-7 win. In game 2, Coosa fell behind by four runs before rallying for a 5-4 victory.
“It just shows that in playoff baseball, every inning and every pitch is important,” said Coosa head coach Dewayne Boyd. “But I’d rather this happen in the first round than the second and third round.”
Through the first five and two-third innings of Game 1, the Conquerors enjoyed a solid starting pitching effort by Clete O’Bryant along with potent production at the plate. O’Bryant scattered four hits, one earned run and three walks while striking out two. Out of the nine baserunners he allowed through the first five innings, only one scored.
“Clete was phenomenal for us,” said Boyd. “He has a lot of confidence and pitches with a chip on his shoulder. He’s a real competitor who has been on the big stage in football, so he handles the pressure really well.”
The Conquerors provided O’Bryant ample support with a pair of runs in both the first and second innings, one in the fourth and three more in the fifth.
Thomas Skaggs went yard with a runner on base in the bottom of the first for a 2-0 lead. In the next inning, a double by Dylan Edwards plated Halen Palmer, followed in the next at-bat by Brody Nelson’s RBI single. Bryan Johnson scored on an RBI groundout in the fourth for a four-run advantage.
After Coosa loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth, Renn Gladden scored when Edwards was hit by a pitch, then Johnson came home on a wild pitch.
It turned out that the Conquerors needed every one of those runs.
The Bulldogs loaded the bases in the top of the sixth, which eventually led to runs off an error and a bases-loaded walk, drawing the visitors within 8-3.
The Conquerors went down in order in the bottom of the sixth, and Addison caused some concern among the Conqueror faithful after quickly loading the bases with no outs in the top of the seventh. A subsequent walk made it 8-4, and in the next at-bat, Kaden Dyson lined a double to cut the Coosa lead to one run.
Dyson wound up staying at second base, however, as relief pitcher John David Justus struck out the next two batters and induced a third to line out to O’Bryant in centerfield to end the game.
“I felt like we got a little complacent in that we thought the pressure was off, and then [Addison] put it on is,” said Boyd. “But our guys fought back and got the job done, and I’m proud of them for that.”
It was quite the opposite scenario in Game 2 after the Conquerors found themselves in a four-run hole after four innings. Addison starter Stone Talley allowed four baserunners over that time period, only one of whom reached third base. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs scored one run in the first and three in the third to take a 4-0 lead into the top of the fifth, at which point the Coosa bats did some damage with Talley off the mound in favor of relief pitchers.
Consecutive base hit by Edwards, Nelson and Blaine West set up an RBI sacrifice fly. Skaggs then doubled in West to make it 4-3.
Following a leadoff double in the bottom of the fifth, Coosa starter Renn Gladden sent down the next three batters to keep the Addison offense in check. In six innings of work, Gladden scattered eight hits, three earned runs and three walks with two strikeouts.
“Renn hasn’t pitched in the playoffs before, so this was new for him,” said Boyd. “He actually was a batter away from being pulled, but he got the out, and he battled for two more innings. Even when he didn’t have his best stuff, he kept his composure, and I’m proud of him for that.”
After a scoreless sixth inning, the Conquerors loaded the bases in the top of the seventh by way of a leadoff single by West, a walk by Justus and a fielding error. Gladden lifted a sacrifice fly that tied the score. Another sacrifice fly, this one courtesy of Keith Johnson, plated Justus with the eventual winning run.
Justus again stepped up in relief. Following a leadoff single and a fielder’s choice in the bottom of the seventh that put runners on first and second with two outs, Justus struck out the next batter to secure the win and punch Coosa’s ticket for the second round.
“He’s another football guy that is just built for pressure,” said Boyd. “He’s truly loves those moments and he wants that spotlight. We were a little scared because John David would have been our Game 3 starter, but when you have the chance to shut the door in the playoffs, you go for it.”
For the series, Skaggs went 4-for-8 with a home run, a double, three RBI and a run scored; Justus and West each went 4-for-7 with two runs scored; Edwards went 2-for-5 with two RBI and two runs scored; Nelson went 3-for-8 with a double, an RBI and a run scored and Gladden went 2-for-6 with two RBI and a run scored.
For Addison, Jed Wilkins went 4-for-6 with two RBI and for runs scored, while Dyson went 2-for-5 with three RBI and a run scored.
The Conquerors will host Victory Christian this Friday (April 28) for a second round series. Game 1 is scheduled for 1 p.m., with Game 2 set for 3:30 p.m. An if-necessary Game 3 with be held on Saturday, April 29 at 1 p.m.
It is the first time that Coosa advanced past the first round since 2017.
“We fell like if we play our game and do what we’re supposed to do, we like our chances,” said Boyd. “