Conquerors sweep defending state champs, move to 1A semifinals


Photo: Members of the Coosa Christian baseball team celebrate moments after the final out of the Conquerors’ sweep over Appalachian in the Class 1A state baseball quarterfinals on Thursday, May 3 in Gadsden. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)

By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor

No one can accuse Coosa Christian of taking the easy route to the 2024 Class 1A state baseball semifinals.
Facing Appalachian in a best-of-three quarterfinal series on Thursday, May 3, the Conquerors (18-20) swept the defending state champions, 2-1 and 9-7, to advance to the fourth round for the first time in school history.
“I’m proud of our players, I’m proud of our coaching staff and I’m proud of our school,” said Coosa Christian head coach Dewayne Boyd. “I can’t say enough about the resiliency our guys have shown all year to get to this point.”
After squeaking by Appalachian in the opener, the Conquerors built leads of 7-1 and 9-4 before the Eagles (24-2) put across three runs over the final two innings. But with two outs and a runner on second in the bottom of the seventh, relief pitcher Renn Gladden struck out the next Eagle batter to secure the sweep and make program history.
“Appalachian is the defending state champions and a very good ball club,” said Boyd. “They know how to win. Coach [Brandon] Johnson does a phenomenal job, and they gave us all we could handle.”
It looked as if the Conquerors might have an easy time of it in game 2 after they scored seven runs early on. Respective two-out RBI singles by Clete O’Bryant and Keith Johnson made it 2-0 after one inning, while O‘Bryant and Brody Nelson both drove in two runs in the second to help extend the lead to seven runs.
But Appalachian responded with Bryan Martin’s RBI sacrifice bunt in the second and Tanner Bartlett’s bases-loaded double in the third to cut it to 7-4.
The Conquerors added a pair of runs in the fifth by way of Nelson’s RBI base hit and Dylan Edwards’ bases-loaded walk before Appalachian made things interesting over the final two innings.
Nelson went 2-for-4 with three RBI and a run scored; O’Bryant went 3-for-3 with three RBI; Blaine West went 2-for-4; and Gladden and Johnson each had a hit, an RBI and a run scored.
In 4.2 innings, Nelson allowed three hits, two earned runs and one walk while striking out five.
John David Justus held the fort for the Conquerors in game 1, providing a five-inning start that limited the Eagles to one hit, one run and one walk as he fanned 11. None of the three runners Justus allowed made it past first base, and he sent the Eagles down in order in the second and fifth innings.
“John David pitched well but he had a lot of full counts, so I decided to take him out [in the fifth inning] because his pitch count was getting up there,” said Boyd. “We brought in Brody, and he did an excellent job of shutting that game down.”
Cam Moore’s two-out double in the seventh to put tying run in scoring position, but Brody Nelson induced a line out end the threat and put Coosa up 1-0 on the series.
Gladden’s score off an error in the second and Gladden’s RBI double in the third provided Justus with room to operate. The Eagles drew within a run in the top of the sixth on Cole Gargus’ bases-loaded walk, but Nelson, who came on in relief at the start of the inning, recorded three straight outs to limit the damage.
Boyd pointed to the Conquerors’ 11-game losing streak early in the regular season as the main catalyst for the team’s current success. Coosa is currently 12-0 in 1A competition.
“We played all of that high-level competition for moments like this one,” he said. “Now, we shouldn’t be surprised or intimidated at what we see pitching-wise in the playoffs.”
Coosa visits Sumiton Christian (24-4) next week for a best-of-three semifinal series.
“Sumiton has some really good [pitching] arms, so it’s going to be a tough series,” said Boyd. “But we’ll be ready for the challenge. God has blessed us, and we’re proud to be out here representing Him.”

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