Photo: Coosa Christian’s Brody Nelson (left) slides into third base ahead of the tag of Victory Christian’s Alex Hoggard during the Conquerors’ 7-4 loss in the Class 1A state baseball quarterfinals on April 21 in Gadsden. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
After losing Game 1 of its Class 1A second-round baseball series against Victory Christian on April 21 in Gadsden, Coosa Christian outscored the Lions 21 to 2 over the next two games to advance to the state quarterfinal for the first time in school history.
Coosa (25-11) travels to Hackleburg this Thursday May 4, for Games 1 and 2 starting at 4:30 and 7 p.m., respectively. A deciding third game is scheduled for Friday, May 5 at 1 p.m.
The outcome of Game 3 was never in doubt last Saturday (April 22) after the Conquerors put across nine runs in the bottom of the first inning, eventually winning by a score of 12-1. With Coosa starter John David Justus allowing two baserunners over the first four innings, VCA never recovered from early Coosa onslaught.
Justus received all the support he needed in the bottom of the first when a sacrifice fly plated Brody Nelson and Blaine West and Thomas Skaggs came home on a fielding error.
For good measure, Clete O’Bryant doubled in Renn Gladden; Keith Johnson scored on a wild pitch and O’Bryant, Nelson and Dylan Edwards all came home on errors. Justus then helped his cause when his two-out triple plated West for a nine-run advantage.
The Conquerors made it 10-0 in the third on West’s RBI groundout, and Johnson’s two-out double in the fourth led to pinch runner Bryant Johnson’s score off an error.
Rylan Formby’s RBI single in the top of the fifth spoiled the shutout but did not prevent the game from being called on the 10-run mercy rule.
In five innings, Justus allowed four hits and one run while striking out four.
Coosa led 3-1 in Game 1 after Nelson and Skaggs scored off an error in the bottom of the first and Nelson doubled home Halen Palmer in the second. But four runs in the third and three more in the fourth by the Lions put the Conquerors in a five-run hole, and Gladden’s RBI groundout in the sixth was all Coosa could muster before falling by a score of 7-4.
Game 2 was close through the first five innings, at which point Coosa was ahead 2-1. The Conquerors took a 1-0 lead on Justus’ RBI base hit in the top of the first. That score held up until the bottom of the fourth, when VCA’s Jayden Hicks scored on an error.
Coosa reclaimed the advantage during the next inning on Keith Johnson’s run-scoring base hit. Justus retired the side in order in the bottom of the fifth, setting up the Conquerors’ knockout punch.
Ben Wright led off the sixth inning with a walk and scored on Keith Johnson’s single. With two outs, Nelson scored off a West base hit, West came home on an error and Gladden drove in Justus and Skaggs for an 8-1 lead.
A double by Nelson in the seventh drove in Edwards for the final margin of 9-1.
Gladden earned the win in seven innings of work, allowing two hits and no earned runs while striking out seven. He did not issue a walk.
For the series, Nelson went 4-for-8 with two doubles, two RBI and five runs scored; Justus went 4-for-9 with a triple, a double, three RBI and two runs scored; Gladden went 3-for-9 with a double, three RBI and a run scored; West went 3-for-10 with two RBI and three runs scored and Edwards went 2-for-7 with a double, an RBI and four runs scored.