Sardis to play for state title after sweeping Boaz in semifinals

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Photo: The Sardis High baseball team congratulates Russ Wiggs (15) following his game-ending and series-clinching strikeout in the Lions’ 7-5 win over Boaz in the Class 5A state semifinals on May 12 in Sardis City. (Courtesy of Bentley Gray Photography)

By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor

The Sardis High baseball team’s postseason has officially reached the final round.
In a Class 5A state semifinal matchup against area rival and Sand Mountain neighbor Boaz on May 12, the Lions posted a 4-2, 7-5 sweep to gain the program’s first-ever state championship berth.
“Just the atmosphere was incredible,” said Sardis head coach Kevin Vinson. “I’m confident that that was the largest crowd ever at a Sardis baseball game.”
Each team scored a run during the first inning of Game 1, Boaz on Tyler Whaley’s RBI double and Sardis via Luke Weems’ run-scoring base hit.
The Lions put across three runs in the bottom of the third. Landon Carroll and Russ Wiggs singled and scored on Carson Gillilan’s base hit, while Trey Thornton drove in Gillilan later in the inning.
That was more than enough support for Weems. After allowing Daniel Posey’s solo home run in the top of the fourth, Weems limited the Pirates to three hits the rest of the game. He retired the side on order in the top of the seventh to set up a possible series sweep. In a complete-game effort, Weems scattered seven hits and two walks while striking out seven.
“We have a bunch of grinders in our lineup who never get too up or too down,” said Vinson. “They just step into the batter’s box and go to work. They don’t really let the score dictate how they go about their business. I feel confident that No. 1 through No. 9, somebody’s going to get the job done when we need them to.”
As the visiting team on the scoreboard, the Lions led wire to wire in Game 2. Boaz drew within 7-5 in the bottom of the seventh, but with two outs and the bases loaded, Wiggs struck out the Pirate’s cleanup hitter to secure the sweep and punch Sardis’ ticket to the finals.
“Russ pitched at lot of innings for us earlier in the season, and with the success that Luke and Blaze have had in the playoffs, we haven’t had to use many other pitchers,” said Vinson. “So for Russ to come into that situation with the layoff he’s had and be able to do what he did was amazing.”
“I was just trying to zone out the crowd, just me and the catcher, and do what I’ve done all year, just throw strikes,” said Wiggs. “There’s not a group of boys I wouldn’t want to be here with like these guys. We’ve worked hard all season, and we deserve to be here.”
In 6.1 innings, Lion starter Blaze Gerhart allowed seven hits and three walks while fanning 10. “[Weems and Gerhart] did that they’ve done all year, which is go out there and compete their tails off and give us a chance,” said Vinson. “I wouldn’t have expected anything less than that.”
Sardis’ five-run inning in the top of the first featured RBI base hits from Gillilan, Thornton and Baylor Garrard.
The Pirates trimmed the lead to two runs in the bottom of the inning by way of Cooper Whorton’s two-out, two-run single, while Bo Hester’s run-scoring base hit in the third made it 5-3. But Gerhart limited Boaz to three baserunning over the next two innings, with none of them advancing past second.
The Lion offense provided Gerhart additional support with a pair of runs in the top of the sixth when Wiggs and Carroll drew walks and scored on a Gillilan single.
For the series, Gillilan went 3-for 6 with five RBI and three runs scored; Wiggs went 4-for-6 with two RBI and three runs scored; Thornton went 4-for-6 with two RBI and a run scored: Weems went 3-for-7 with an RBI and Gerhart went 2-for-5.
Sardis (30-6) will face Holtville at Chocclocco Park in Oxford on Thursday, May 18 at 7 p.m. Game 2 and an if-necessary Game 3 will be played on Friday, May 19 at Jacksonville State starting at 10 a.m.
“No matter who you play in the state championship series, they’re going to be good,” said Vinson. “I know they’ve got a good lineup and good arms, so we’re going to have to play our best in order to give ourselves a chance, and I expect our kids to go out there and do that. We’ll have our hands full, but I wouldn’t want to go up against this type of challenge with any other group of guys than what I’ve got right here.”
Vinson pointed to the Lions’ depth and unselfish attitude as keys to their success this season.
“As the year went on, if a couple of guys at the top of the order were struggling in a game or two, somebody else stepped up,” said Vinson. “I think that’s what makes this team special. These kids are playing for something more than themselves. They’re playing for each other, they’re playing for the school and they’re playing for the community. We definitely have something special going on right now. I just wish that some of the teams I’ve previously coached here could have had this opportunity.”
Sand Mountain Reporter Publisher Shannon J. Allen contributed to this article.

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