By Joshua Price/Sports Editor
It will be a clash of Class 2A baseball titans at William Stewart Field in Rainbow City on May 4, when fourth-ranked Westbrook Christian (26-11) hosts top-ranked Mars Hill (37-6) in varsity baseball quarterfinals action. The first pitch is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
“We simply must come out and execute.”
Simply put, that is the strategy Warrior varsity baseball coach Matt Kennedy is taking into the series.
Mars Hill swept tenth-ranked Hatton at home on April 27, winning the opener 9-7 and coming from behind to win the nightcap, 9-3, while Westbrook defeated Section on April 28, 10-2, after splitting with the visiting Lions on April 27 to set up the rematch rendez-vous.
Westbrook is familiar with Mars Hill. The Panthers ousted the Warriors from the playoffs in 2010 and went on to win the Class 2A state championship that season.
“They have some great pitching talent,” Kennedy said. “They have a pair of lefties that we faced a couple of years ago. They will be tougher this time around.”
Westbrook hit the ball well in the series against Section, trodding many doubles and RBIs. Many blasts were unfortunate, oftentimes being hit straight toward the Lion defenders.
John Mayfield, Jake Kilgo, Mikhail Cazenave and Matt Reaves sparked the top of the lineup in each of the Warriors’ playoff series while Hayden Hendrick, Jonathan Ford and Blaine Beaird provided support on the backside of the offensive attack. Speedster Josh Calhoun and Clay Templeton each held their own in the series.
Pitching is doubtless both teams’ strong point, and the series could be decided by which squad plays the best defense.
Cazenauve and Reeves provided stellar performances on the mound in the first and third games, respectively. John Mayfield gave the Warriors four solid innings in game two, but the Lions edged the hosts in the final inning.
“We feel like we have four or five guys we can throw at anytime,” Kennedy said. “Coach [Robert] Cartrett does a great job getting each one of our [pitchers] prepared for their outings. Those guys keep us in the game.”
The Warriors are a loose, high-spirited bunch in the dugout.
“This team is different from the ones I’ve had in the past,” Kennedy said. “They have a laid-back attitude but always come ready to play. They even keep me relaxed sometimes! It’s a great group to work with.”
Kennedy is confident in his team’s chances this time around.
“There are some things we need to work on this week, but we will practice everyday as usual and hopefully take care of business on Friday.”