Walk off single sends Coosa to second round


Photo: Coosa Christian’s John David Justus slides safely into home plate during the Conquerors’ 2-1 loss to Hubbertville in the first round of the Class 1A state playoffs on Friday, April 19 in Gadsden. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)

By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor

Coosa Christian head baseball coach Dewayne Boyd pointed to resiliency as a key factor for his team’s berth in the second round of the postseason.
The Conquerors split with Hubbertville, 1-2, 11-1 in a doubleheader on Friday, April 19 in Gadsden in the first round of the Class 1A state playoffs.
In the deciding third game on Saturday, Coosa led 4-1 in the top of the seventh inning when the Lions scored three unearned runs to tie the game at 4-4. The Conquerors went down in order in the bottom of the inning to send the game into extra innings.
“I told our guys that in the playoffs, you can’t shoot yourself in the foot and expect to win, and we were fortunate to pull that one out,” said Boyd. “But we didn’t hang our heads and we focused and made plays when we had to.”
Conqueror starter Renn Gladden wriggled out of trouble in the top of the eighth. With the bases loaded and two outs, he struck out a Lion batter looking to keep the score even.
“That was a huge moment for Renn,” said Boyd. “He’s a battler who thrives in those situations.”
John David Justus led off in the bottom of the inning with a double but was soon back in the dugout after it was ruled that he did not touch first base. But Coosa went right back into scoring on a Clete O’Bryant double, and in the next at-bat, Brian Johnson beat out an infield hit that was hit just hard enough to shortstop to allow O’Bryant to score from second base to win the game and the series.
“Clete struck out in his three previous at-bats, which shows that good things will eventually happen if you stay focused and don’t let it get into your head. No one’s been in more pressure situations than Clete, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise when he got that hit.”
Gladden went the distance to earn the win, scattering seven hits and three walks with six strikeouts. He did not allow an earned run.
Coosa jumped out to an early lead in game 3 courtesy of Justus’ RBI single in the bottom of the first that scored Dylan Edwards and Brody Nelson. Justus came home on a passed ball later in the inning to make it 3-0.
Hubbertville drew within 3-1 courtesy of Kane Rushing’ score off an error, but the Conquerors regained their three-run advantage in the bottom of the fifth by way of Gladden’s RBI single.
However, that advantage disappeared in the top of the seventh when Rushing and Grady Afshar scored on the same error and Tim Keeton doubled off the leftfield wall.
Justus went 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored, while Nelson had a hit and two RBI.
In Friday’s opener, Justus’ score off Johnson’s sacrifice bunt was all the offense the Conquerors could muster off of Hubbertville’s Blaze Wakefield, who in 6.1 innings allowed three hits, one run and three walks while fanning five. Justus was just as effective, however, scattering two hits and five walks while fanning seven. Both of his runs were unearned.
“I thought John David pitched a phenomenal game,” said Boyd. “Even with those numbers, I didn’t feel that he had his best stuff, but he found a way. That kid is as tough as nails, and that’s what we’ve come to expect from him every time he goes out there.”
The Lions tied it at 1-1 in the top of the fifth on Jackson Bowen’s run off an RBI groundout. The game remained tied until the top of the seventh, when Bowen singled and scored on an error. Coosa had a chance in the bottom of the inning when the Conquerors loaded the bases with two outs, but a Coosa baserunner was called for interference after the ball hit him in the foot. Gladden went 2-for-4 at the plate.
Whatever disappointment Coosa felt about dropping the opener did not linger into the nightcap, as sixth-run third inning and a solid pitching effort by Nelson propelled the Conquerors to an 11-1 victory in five innings. Nelson’s line included five hits, one walk and one run while striking out three. His lone hiccup came in the bottom of the first when Kade Watkins scored on an RBI groundout. Gladden drove in Edwards in the top of the inning with a base hit.
Justus’ RBI triple highlighted a three-run output in the top of the third, and Johnson escaped from a bases-loaded, two-out situation in the bottom of the inning to keep the Lions at bay.
Justus’ bases-clearing triple in the fourth made it a 10-1 lead, and Cade Mickle came home on an error in the fifth to complete the scoring.
Justus went 2-for-4 with four RBI and two runs scored, Keith Johnson went 3-for-3 and Gladden went 2-for-2 with two RBI.
“That’s usually Clete’s spot in the pitching rotation, but we’re holding him out as a precaution,” said Boyd. “Brody has been in those types of situations before and did a fantastic job this time around.”
Coosa Christian visits Addison in a second round series starting Thursday, April 25 with a doubleheader at 4:30 and 6:30. An if-necessary game 3 is scheduled for Friday, April 26 at 1 p.m.
“We put [Addison] out in the first round last year, so I’m sure they’ll be gunning for us,” said Boyd. “Were looking to have a good couple of days of practice and fix some things that need to be fixed and get ready to play a really good ball team.”

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