Westbrook grad part of another championship team

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Photo: 2021 Westbrook Christian graduate and Louisiana State University sophomore Samuel Dutton (pictured at back) and his family gather for a photo following LSU’s championship victory over Florida in the recent College Baseball World Series in Omaha, Neb. Pictured with Dutton are dad Gary, mom Samantha, brother Andrew and Laina Townsel. (Courtesy of Grant Campbell) 

By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor

Not many student-athletes are blessed to be part of a high school and college championship team.
Count 2021 Westbrook Christian graduate and Louisiana State sophomore Samuel Dutton among those fortunate few.
Dutton and his LSU baseball teammates went 6-2 at the recent College World Series to win the NCAA Division I title. Approximately two years earlier, Dutton and his Westbrook teammates captured the Class 2A state baseball championship.
“It’s a pretty cool thing to win [a championship] in high school and then college,” said Dutton. “Back in March, I was not thinking that we’d be doing this.”
After making it to the fourth round of the SEC baseball tournament in late May, the Tigers defeated Tulane and Oregon State in the NCAA Regionals and Kentucky in the Super Regionals. In the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, LSU opened with a 6-3 victory over Tennessee before dropping into the playback bracket with a 3-2 loss to Wake Forest. The Tigers posted a 5-0 shutout over the Volunteers, then gained some payback with a pair of victories over Wake Forest that earned LSU a berth in the best-of-three championship series against Florida.
The Tigers edged the Gators, 2-1, in 11 innings before falling 24-4 to set up a deciding Game 3. Dutton pitched one inning and faced eight batters in that game, striking out three.
LSU turned the tables on Florida in the third game, cruising to an 18-4 victory and hoisting the national championship trophy.
Dutton pointed to the overwhelming presence of LSU at the World Series as a key factor in the Tigers’ success.
“There was nothing but purple and gold in the stands,” he said. “We definitely had the homefield advantage, for sure, 100 percent. The support we get from all the LSU fans is incredible and knowing that it’s not something that every program has is pretty special. A lot of times, people watching baseball on TV don’t realize that having the crowd behind you really helps.”
LSU finished with a 54-19 record with a 19-10 mark in SEC play. In 10 games, Dutton allowed 36 hits, 18 earned runs and seven while striking out 21. In his freshman year of 2022, Dutton pitched in 38.2 innings with 12 walks and 26 strikeouts.
“We saw what Samuel could accomplish in high school, and obviously it’s continued in college,” said former Westbrook Christian baseball coach Matt Kennedy. “I think that college has been a pretty unique experience for Sam in that only about two to five percent of high school kids go on to play college baseball, and then only about two percent go to Division I schools, and for Samuel to go on and actually play at that level is pretty impressive.”
Dutton uses the same approach while pitching in front of thousands of people at SEC games as he did competing in front of a few hundred in Rainbow City – by reducing the game from inning to inning to batter to batter and finally to pitch to pitch.
“I think you always have to have that mindset to be successful,” he said. “[Pitching] is probably about 80 percent mental. You have to slow the game down. If you don’t to that, stuff isn’t going to go your way.”
Dutton also noted that the workload in college far exceeds that of high school, both athletically and academically.
“Yes, there was a lot to do at Westbrook, but it’s even more of a challenge at the DI level. That also part of the mental thing, knowing that you have to get up on your on and getting those things done. That’s probably the biggest difference – you have to have self-discipline, or you won’t get those things done. That’s especially true when you’re on the road, in that the last thing you want to do is schoolwork. But if your GPA isn’t high enough, you can’t play in the postseason, so that’s pretty good motivation.”
Dutton’s high school accomplishments achieved near le-gendary status.
Following his senior year of 2021, he was selected as the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s Class 2A Player of the Year, named the All-Messenger baseball team MVP and named a National High School All-American. In 53 innings on the mound, Dutton allowed only14 hits, three earned runs and five walks while striking out 117 batters. He went 9-0 and posted a 0.39 earned run average with seven shutouts, four no-hitters and one perfect game. According to the Alabama High School Athletic Association season records, Dutton’s ERA was the sixth-lowest all-time, his four no-hitters tied for first all-time and his seven shutouts tied for fifth all-time. In addition, his 32 and two-third consecutive scoreless innings streak was fifth all-time. At the plate, Dutton finished with 50 hits (including nine doubles and one triple), four home runs, 39 RBI, a .515 batting average and a .621 on-base percentage.
In the 15 innings he pitched in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the season, Dutton threw complete-game shutouts over Etowah and Russellville while allowing no runs and five hits with 28 strikeouts.
As a sophomore in 2019, Dutton struck out 110 while finishing with an 8-3 record and an 0.88 earned run average while holding opposing batters to a collective .121 average. At the plate, he batted .383 with 41 hits, 38 runs, 21 RBI, six doubles, two triples and two home runs. Dutton’s outstanding numbers played a big part in the Warriors’ 23-14 record, area championship, three playoff series victories and berth in the state championship series for the first time since 2013.
As a freshman in 2018, Dutton went 5-2-1 with a 1.21 earned run average in 46 innings. He struck out 72 batters while issuing only 11 walks and surrendering just 28 hits and eight earned runs. He pitched a no-hitter against Vincent in the first round of the Class 2A state playoffs. At the plate, Dutton batted .494 with 38 hits, 30 RBI, 24 runs scored and seven doubles. The 2018 Warriors went 27-9 and made it to the Class 2A state quarterfinals, where Westbrook lost in extra innings in the deciding third game against top-ranked Mars Hill Bible.
For his high school varsity career from 2017 to 2021, Dutton posted the lowest career earned run average in AHSAA history at 0.77, finished 19th in career strikeouts with 377 and finished 26th in career wins with 29.
“I could tell there was something different about Samuel when he arrived here as an eighth grader,” said Kennedy. “God blessed him with a special ability and a great right arm, but if you have those things and don’t put in the work, you won’t excel. Talent’s not enough. Along with his brother Andrew, Samuel worked harder than any other kid who’s come through here.”

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