Westbrook ace highlights All-Messenger baseball team

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Photo courtesy of Grant Campbell 

By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor

With seven of the 11 high school baseball teams in The Messenger’s coverage area making the state playoffs this past season, a legitimate case could be made for several local players earning the top honor on the paper’s all-area team.
One student-athlete in particular rose to the occasion time and time again when the stakes were at the highest – Dylan Rainey.
The Westbrook Christian junior delivered the goods for the Warriors every time he hit the mound this past season. He finished with a perfect 9-0 record, including a 5-0 mark in the postseason, as the Warriors ended up as the Class 3A state runners-up. In 63 innings over a 12-game span, Rainey (pictured above) limited the opposition to 51 hits, 17 earned runs and 21 walks while having 79 strikeouts and a sparkling 1.89 earned run average. He also made his presence felt at the plate, batting .355 with 33 hits and 29 RBI. While not pitching, he started at catcher, where his strong arm kept opposing team’s running game in check.
For that production, Rainey earned Player of the Year recognition on the 2024 All-Messenger baseball team.
Coach of the Year honors went to Jerry Windle, who guided Westbrook to a 25-13 record, the program’s 17th straight area championship and a second-place finish in the state playoffs.
Joining Rainey on the first team pitching staff were teammate Braden Kay, Sardis senior Blaze Gerhardt, Coosa Christian junior John David Justus, Etowah junior Tray Gaddis and Ashville senior Drew Layfield.
Kay was a solid No. 2 behind Rainey all season. In 68 innings, the junior righthander allowed 30 earned runs and 12 walks while striking out 73 and posting a 3.09 ERA.
Gerhardt was a major factor in the Lions’ 22-13 record, fourth straight area title and second straight appearance in the Class 5A state quarterfinals. In 40 innings, he issued only 24 hits, 12 earned runs and 21 walks while fanning an impressive 164 batters. He finished with a 2.10 ERA.
Justus was a tough nut to crack on the mound as well. His 99 strikeouts and 2.27 ERA in 72 innings of work had much to do with the Conquerors’ 22 wins, third straight area championship and the school’s first-ever berth in the Class 1A state semifinals.
Gaddis helped power the Blue Devils’ run to the second round of the Class 4A state playoffs with 45 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.98. In 50 innings, the lefthander issued only 14 earned runs while posting a 6-2-1 record.
The Bulldogs’ ace since his freshman year, Layfield capped off his prep career in fine fashion by helping Ashville win its first state playoff series since 2003. His numbers included 118 strikeouts, 14 walks, a 2.17 ERA and a 10-5 record in 84 innings.
Making up the first team infield were Ashville sophomore Dylan Palmer at catcher, Sardis senior Carson Gillilan at first base, Southside senior Kutter Johnson at second base, Westbrook Christian freshman Brody Blevins at shortstop, Hokes Bluff junior Glavine Lamberth at third base, Etowah senior Slade St. Clair at designated hitter and Hokes Bluff’s Brayson Hayes at utility.
Palmer batted .424 along with 51 hits, 49 runs, 30 RBI and 32 steals; Gillilan finished with 44 hits, 32 RBI, 29 runs and five home runs while batting .440; Johnson had 48 hits, 25 RBI, 21 runs and a .400 batting average; Blevins batted .347 with 33 hits, 36 runs and 15 steals; Lamberth produced 47 hits, 38 runs and 20 RBI while batting .505; St. Clair finished with 44 hits (including 15 doubles), 32 runs, 27 RBI and 22 steals; and Hayes had 36 hits, 32 RBI, 23 runs and a .444 batting average.
The first team outfield consists of Westbrook Christian sophomore Brady Carden, Southside senior Cayden McMichael and Etowah junior Cash Hayes.
Carden batted .404 with 38 hits, 27 RBI and 22 runs while striking out only seven times. McMichael ended up with a .400 batting average, 48 hits, 34 runs and 16 RBI and was 14-for-14 in stolen base attempts. Hayes had 40 hits, 34 runs, 17 RBI and 27 steals along with a .421 batting average.
Second team pitching staff
* Conner Lowery, senior, Sardis: 55 innings, 2.58 ERA, 62 strikeouts, 20 earned runs, 17 walks, 8-0 record.
* Brady Kitchens, senior, Glencoe: 59 innings, 2.37 ERA, 84 strikeouts, 20 earned runs, 35 walks, 7-2 record.
* Brody Nelson, junior, Coosa Christian: 67 innings, 2.54 ERA, 95 strikeouts, 24 earned runs, 26 walks, 6-8-1 record.
* Bo Kilgo, sophomore, Westbrook Christian: 40 innings, 2.65 ERA, 32 strikeouts, 15 earned runs, nine walks, 3-1-1 record.
* Shelby Houston, freshman, Southside: 63 innings, 2.03 ERA, 63 strikeouts, 18 earned runs, 15 walks, 3-3-1 record.
* Jameson Scissum, junior, Etowah: 34 innings, 2.00 ERA, 44 strikeouts, 18 walks, 5-2-1 record.
Second team infield
* Catcher: Luke Hollingsworth, senior, Gaston: 23 games, .438 batting average, 28 hits, 13 RBI, 10 runs, 18 walks.
* First base: Gabriel Brito, senior, Gadsden City: 27 games, .415 batting average, 27 hits (10 doubles), 20 RBI, 20 runs, 10 walks.
* Second base: Brodie Johnson, sophomore, Westbrook Christian: 34 games, .327 batting average, 36 hits, 37 runs, 25 RBI, 17 steals, 14 walks.
* Shortstop: Angelo Alberghina, sophomore, Southside: 38 games, .320 batting average, 31 hits, 35 runs, 32 RBI, 25 walks.
* Third base: Noah Wright, junior, Westbrook Christian: 34 games, .301 batting average, 28 hits, 19 runs, 16 RBI, nine walks.
Second team outfield
* Cam Carden, senior, Westbrook Christian: 33 games, .326 batting average, 30 hits (six doubles), 22 RBI, 21 runs, seven walks.
* Bodie Bennett, senior, Etowah: 34 games, .337 batting average, 20 RBI, 20 steals.
* Landon Carroll, senior, Sardis: 33 games, .362 batting average, 38 hits, 31 runs and 26 RBI;
* Designated hitter: Trey Thornton, senior, Sardis: 34 games, .330 batting average, 35 hits, 26 runs, 22 RBI, seven walks.
* Utility: Trent Rowell, senior, Glencoe: 34 games, .348 batting average, 39 hits, 37 runs, 14 RBI, 10 walks, 19 steals
Honorable mention
Catcher
* Jayden Patton, junior, Glencoe: 34 games, .299 batting average, 29 hits, 27 runs, 18 RBI, 12 walks, 16 steals.
* Corbin Driskell, sophomore, Southside: 38 games, .333 batting average, 35 hits, 32 RBI, 10 runs, 18 walks.
Second base
* Jackson Mayo, junior, West End: 20 games, .441 batting average, 26 hits, 20 runs, 12 RBI, seven walks.
Shortstop
* Rock Sainsbury, senior, West End: 20 games, .365 batting average, 27 hits, 31 runs, six RBI, 14 steals, eight walks.
* Russ Wiggs, senior, Sardis: 28 games, .377 batting average, 29 hits, 27 runs, 17 RBI, 13 walks.
Outfield
* Levi Martin, sophomore, Sardis: 34 games, .344 batting average, 33 hits, 34 runs, 27 RBI, 17 walks
* Triston Chaney, senior, West End: 19 games, .381 batting average, 24 hits, 22 runs, six RBI, seven walks, 14 steals.
Designated hitter
* Jace Golden, senior, West End: 20 games, .431 batting average, 25 hits, 23 RBI, 17 runs, 11 walks.

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