Westbrook falls just short of state baseball championship

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Photo: Westbrook Christian’s Brady Carden slides into home plate ahead of the tag attempt of Thomasville catcher Luke Brasell during the Warriors 13-3 loss in the Class 3A state baseball championship series on Tuesday, May 14 at Jacksonville State. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)

By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor

Westbrook Christian had the Class 3A state baseball championship within its grasp last Tuesday (May 14) at Jacksonville State, but the Warriors ultimately came up a base short.
With Westbrook trailing by three runs against Thomasville and down to its final strike with the bases loaded in the top of the seventh inning, Brodie Johnson lined a single to centerfield that scored Bo Kilgo from third base and Wil Chadwick from second to trim the Tiger lead to 8-7.
But the Warrior rally went for naught when Thomasville pitcher Isaac Parten retrieved an errant relay throw behind catcher Luke Brasell and threw to Ace Thompson at third, who applied the tag on the Westbrook runner for the final out.
“(The Westbrook runner) thought he had a read when the ball got away from their catcher, but I think that he read it a little bit late,” said Westbrook head coach Jerry Windle. “But we’re aggressive on the basepaths, and he was doing what he was coached to do.”
With a 5-4 advantage entering the bottom of the sixth, the Warriors (25-13) were six outs away from raising the first-place trophy. But Thomasville (32-5) had other ideas.
Gavin Nichols led off the inning with a triple, leading Windle to pull starter Bo Kilgo and insert Johnson in relief. Thompson laced a base hit to tie the game at 5-5, and he advanced to second on a groundout, Westbrook issued an intentional walk to Charlie Morris to set up a potential double play, but a wild pitch moved the runners to second and third, respectively.
That brought up Luke Brasell, who delivered a two-run single that gave Thomasville the lead at 7-5.
Johnson struck out the next batter, but John Figgers soon tripled home Brasell to put the Warriors in a three-run hole with only three at-bats remaining.
As has been their M.O. throughout the 2024 postseason, however, Westbrook rose to the occasion.
A leadoff walk by Kilgo and a base hit by Chadwick brought Noah Wright to plate as the potential tying run. A fielding error put Wright at first to load the bases. Parten recorded a strikeout to bring up Johnson, who quickly fell behind in the count at 0-2 before coming through with his two-run single.
But the Warriors were out of outs following Thompson’s tagout at third base, leaving Westbrook to watch the Tigers celebrate their state title moments later.
“Thomasville pounded the baseball and took advantage of a lot of our mistakes,” said Windle. “They never quit and just continued to come at us. They’re a very well-coached team that has eight or nine seniors, which you could tell by the way they played.”
Westbrook jumped out 2-0 in the top of the first in game 3 by way of an RBI double from Dylan Rainey and a run-scoring single by Brady Carden.
But the Tigers erased that lead in the bottom of the inning with a pair of bases-loaded walks and an RBI single from Figgers. Thomasville made it 4-2 in the next inning with a sacrifice fly from Bryant.
The Warriors regained the advantage in the fourth, however. Singles from Wright and Cameron Carden led to both players scoring off separate errors, and Rainey’s base hit plated Jacob Maples to make it 5-4 in favor of Westbrook.
Kilgo retired the side in order in the fifth, but Thomasville’s three runs in the sixth gave the Tigers the lead for good.
In four and one-third innings, Parten allowed five hits, two earned runs and two walks while striking out five. Thompson went 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored, while Figgers went 2-for-4 with two RBI. For Westbrook, Rainey went 2-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored, while Johnson had a hit, three RBI and a run scored.
In five innings, Kilgo allowed four hits, four earned runs and seven walks while striking out five.
“Bo will be the first one to tell you that he didn’t have his best stuff today, but he competed,” said Windle. “I tell our guys all the time that when things aren’t going well during a game or at school or at home, if you compete, you’ll be successful at whatever you do. That’s what Bo did today, and I’m proud of him for that.”
In game 1 on Monday, May 13, Westbrook used a four-run inning in the top of the sixth to pull away after the Tigers had pulled within 6-5.
“We didn’t hit the ball particularly hard in that game, but we hit a few into some gaps that bounced our way at the right time, and we were able to get runners on second and third,” said Windle.
The Warriors quickly loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth after respective walks by Johnson and Rainey and a base hit from Maples.
Brady Carden then drew a walk to make it 7-5, and Blevins’ sacrifice fly in the next at-bat pushed the lead to three runs. Later in the inning, Beck Hammontree scored on an error and Carden came home on Chadwick’s sacrifice fly for a 10-5 advantage.
Coming on in relief of Rainey in the bottom of the inning, Kilgo helped get the Warriors out of a two-out, runners-on-first-and-second jam by getting Ace Thompson to line out to leftfield.
Westbrook added some insurance in the top of the seventh by way of Brady Carden’s two-out single that plated Maples. After allowing a one-out walk in the bottom of the inning, Kilgo struck out the next two Tiger batters to secure the victory and put Westbrook up 1-0 in the series.
Thomasville gave up 11 walks and left nine runners on base
“Those insurance runs we tacked on near the end were huge,” said Windle. “Dylan didn’t have his best stuff, but he battled and made pitches when he had to.”
Rainey went five and two-third innings for the win, scattering seven hits, three earned runs and three walks while fanning five. Brady Carden went 2-for-3 with two RBI and two runs scored, while Chadwick had a hit, four RBI and a run scored.
Westbrook took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second with Brady Carden’s score on a fielder’s choice and Kilgo’s run off a wild pitch.
Thomasville got on the board in the bottom of the inning by way of Dallas Bryant’s RBI single, and while Westbrook went scoreless over the next two innings, the Tigers took a 3-2 lead in the third when Charlie Morris came through with a run-scoring single and later scored off an error.
That setback turned out to be temporary for the Warriors, however. With two outs in the top of the fifth, Brady Carden singled and Blevins and Kilgo both walked. That brought up Chadwick, who lifted a double to rightfield that plated Blevins and Carden and provided Westbrook with a 6-3 lead.
Thomasville cut the deficit to one run on Morris’ two-run triple in the bottom of the inning, but Westbrook escaped further trouble when B.J. Cheeseboro was tagged out at home in a double-steal attempt, and the Tigers ultimately could not overcome Westbrook’s four-run output in the sixth.
Bryant went 3-for-3 with an RBI, while Norris went 2-for-3 with three RBI and a run scored.
That momentum failed to make it to Tuesday’s game 2, as Morris limited Westbrook to three hits, one earned run and two walks while fanning four in six innings.
The Tigers did most of their damage in the third inning, during which they scored 10 runs on only four hits, the biggest of which was Braswell’s inside-the-park home run that made it 4-3.
Five walks and a hit-by-pitch helped Thomasville emerge from the inning with a 10-3 lead. The Tigers tacked insurance runs in the fourth and sixth innings to end the game on the 10-run mercy rule.
“I told our guys after that game that it didn’t matter, because we had a winner-take-all game 3,” said Windle. “I did chew their tails a little bit about the response I saw after [Thomasville] had that big inning, and we made some uncharacteristic mental errors that cost us, but we gave ourselves a chance to win all day in game 3.”
The Warriors entire run production in game 2 occurred in the bottom of the second. Brady Carden tripled and scored on Kilgo’s bunt base hit, Cam Carden singled in Blevins and Kilgo scored on a bases-loaded balk. That inning aside, Morris retired 14 of the 15 batters he faced.
Bryant went 2-for-2 with three RBI and two runs scored, while Brasell went 2-for-4 with three RBI and a run scored.
“I would have said this if we won or if we lost – I want to give all the glory and honor to God,” said Windle. “This baseball game is so insignificant [compared] to what we do with these boys day in and day out. At the end of the day, God has blessed these boys with the ability and talent and the opportunity to be here. We talk all the time about how He created us for one thing – to honor and to glorify Him.”
Windle reserved special praise for senior Reese Martin.
“Reese has not been able to get on the field a whole lot, but I‘ve never coached a kid who is more important to what we do. He’s the first one to pick up a rack (after a game), he leads the team in the dugout and he gets us up between innings. So, there’s going to be some seniors we’ll miss who you didn’t see on the field this season.”

 

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