Photo: Sardis High’s Brody Samples (left) scores a first-inning run as Southside catcher Drew McBurnett awaits a throw during the Lions’ 6-5 victory in the championship game of the Etowah County Schools baseball tournament on Friday, March 4 at Gaston. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Sardis withstood a late Southside rally to post a 6-5 victory in the championship game of the Etowah County Schools baseball tournament on Friday, March 4 at Gaston.
Trailing 6-3 in the bottom of the seventh inning, Southside loaded the bases with two outs. Kutter Johnson soon scored on a passed ball and Dre’sen Champagne came home when Dru Fortenberry was hit by a pitch to draw Southside within a run.
But the Panthers came up 90 feet short of tying the game, as reliever Carson Gillian came through with a strikeout to secure the win.
Sardis head coach Kevin Vinson believes that the Lions have not won a county baseball title since he played at Southside in the mid-1990s.
“I think I was a lot more nervous than the kids were,” he said. “I told the [assistant] coaches afterwards that I was kind of glad it worked out the way it did, because our guys learned that they could fight through and win a tight game when things aren’t going very well. I’m super-proud for Carson stepping up and getting the job done in in that situation. He did a heck of a job.”
The Lions took the lead for good in the top of the first, when Gillilan doubled in Andrew Carroll, Brody Samples tripled home Gillilan and Sample scored off an error.
Sardis padded its lead with a pair of runs in the top of the fifth. Carroll led off with a single and scored on a base hit by Gillilan, who later came home courtesy of an RBI ground out by Ty Glass.
The Panther offense finally touched Samples in the bottom of the sixth. Champagne led off with a single and later scored on off an error. Fortenberry then doubled in Gage Nesmith and Toren Snow came home via an RBI groundout to cut the deficit to 5-3.
The Lions tacked on what eventually stood up as the winning run in to top of the seventh when Samples scored off a wild pitch.
Samples, who was named Tournament MVP, held the Panther lineup in check for the better part of five innings. He retired the side in order in the first, third and fourth innings and allowed only four baserunners through five innings. He scattered four hits, five runs and four walks over six and two-thirds innings while striking out 11. He helped his cause by going 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored.
“Brody’s been with me for five years, and the one thing he is a competitor who going to play the game hard,” said Vinson. “He wants the ball, and those are the kind of guys I want on the mound. If we played the next day, Brody would come up to me and ask to pitch, and I have to tell him that he couldn’t. I know I’m always going to get Brody’s best effort, regardless.”
Southside starter Trey Frachiseur went five innings, allowing five runs on nine hits while striking out four and issuing no walks.
Also at the plate for the Lions, Gillilan went 3-for-4 with a double, two RBI and two runs scored;
and Carroll went 3-for-4 with two runs scored. Russ Wiggs had a hit and an RBI.
Champagne led Southside with two hits in four at-bats along with two runs scored. Fortenberry had a double and two RBI.
“I’m proud for our kids, because they really wanted this,” said Vinson. “They deserved it.”
Joining Samples on the all-tournament team were Gillilan, Carroll and Case Martin from Sardis;
Champagne, Fortenberry and Drew McBurnett from Southside; Glavine Lamberth and Brayson Hayes from Hokes Bluff; Kade Kueny and Renn Gladden from Glencoe; Easton Albert from Gaston; and Conner Barnard from West End.
The Lions opened the tournament with a 5-3 victory over Hokes Bluff, followed by a 22-1 win over Gaston.
Against the Eagles, Samples went 2-for-2 with a home run and four RBI, while Trey Thornton and Case Martin each had two hits. Winning pitcher Andrew Felter allowed three hits and struck out three in four and one-third innings. Ty Glass allowed no hits and no walks in 2.2 innings of relief.
Against the Bulldogs, Sardis scored nine runs in the second inning and 13 in the fifth. Gillilan went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored, while Russ Wiggs and Luke Martin each went 2-for-2 with three RBI. In five innings, winning pitcher Evan Brown allowed one run and one hit while striking out five.