By Chris McCarthy/Editor
Westbrook Christian suffered a bit a power outage on Friday (Apr. 22), but the Class 3A No. 9 Warriors made up for that shortcoming with solid pitching, timely hitting and aggressive base running to post a 3-2, 3-1 doubleheader sweep of Pleasant Valley in the first round of the Class 3A state baseball playoffs in Rainbow City.
Westbrook (22-10) travels to Piedmont on Friday (Apr. 29) in a best-of-three second round series. The teams will play a doubleheader staring a 5 p.m. with an if-necessary game slated for 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Three Westbrook pitchers combined to allow 10 hits, with Tyler Self tossing a complete game four-hitter in the opener. He allowed three walks while striking out six.
Game 2 starter Garrett Kennedy went six innings, scattering five hits and one walk.
Just as importantly, the Warriors committed just one error in the field and stole five bases.
“There were some great plays made on both sides, and we’re just fortunate enough to squeak out two wins,” said Westbrook head coach Matt Kennedy. “We didn’t hit the ball as well as I expected us to, but our pitching and defense performed to the level that I expected. Both Tyler and Garrett pitched out of some tough spots, which is what you need to do at this point in the season. As far as our base running goes, we have some guys that not only can run but are smart enough to know when to run.”
With the hosts trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the second inning, Troy Bearden doubled and scored on Cullen Stafford’s base hit.
Westbrook took a 2-1 lead in the third when Garrett Kennedy drew a leadoff walk, stole second base, went to third on a balk and scored on Kyle Leonard’s single.
The Raiders tied the game in the top of the fourth when Nick Howard singles and scored on an error.
But Self allowed only one base runner over the next two innings while retiring nine straight batters. He helped his cause when Chandler Richards doubled and scored on Self’s sacrifice fly in the home half of the fourth.
Westbrook managed just one more hit the rest of the way, however, and the visitors put the potential winning run on base in the top of the seventh with men on first and second with two outs. But Self induced an infield groundout to end the threat and give the Warriors a 1-0 series lead.
As the visiting team in the second game, Westbrook took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second on Self’s RBI single after Richards doubled. The Warriors made it 2-0 in the fifth when Kyle Edwards singled and scored on Alex Ponder’s sacrifice bunt.
Garrett Kennedy’s finest moment came in the bottom of the fourth. With one out and the bases loaded, the junior right-hander induced an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
Pleasant Valley drew within 2-1 in the bottom half of the fifth by way of Dakota Jones’ RBI base hit, but Self singled home Richards in the following inning to provide the hosts with some breathing room.
The Raiders made things interesting in the bottom of the seventh when they loaded the bases with a base hit, a hit batter and walk, but reliever Troy Bearden fanned the sixth batter of the inning to end the game and send the Warriors on the to the next round.
For the series, Richards went 3-for-5 with two runs scored, while Self went 2-for-4 with three RBI. Stafford and Garrett Kennedy each had two hits.
“I tell our guys all the time that if we can get good pitching, play good defense and score a couple of runs, we’ll have a chance,” said Kennedy. “But we’ve certainly got some work to do for next week.