Messenger file photo by Chris McCarthy
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Westbrook Christian won its seventh straight state baseball postseason series on April 29, posting a 6-4, 8-2 sweep over Sulligent in the second round of the Class 2A state playoffs.
The Warriors (16-16) travel to Decatur Heritage for a quarterfinal series starting this Friday, May 6.
In Game 1, Brodie Self’s two-home run in the bottom of the fifth inning erased a two-run deficit and gave the hosts the lead for good. Following a shaky first two innings on the mound, Self allowed only two hits and four baserunners over the next four innings. In 6.2 innings, he scattered eight hits, three earned runs and one walk while striking out six. Eli Grace struck out the final batter in relief in the top of the seventh.
The Blue Devils took the early lead on Bryar Dove’s RBI triple, followed in the second inning with a three-run triple by John Haston Stidham. That turned out to be the high-water mark for the visitors, as Westbrook touched Sulligent starter for Dees Price for four runs on five hits in the bottom of the fifth. Grace’s leadoff single, followed by a triple by Hugh Windle and Self’s dinger, staked the Warriors to a 5-4 lead. Pinch runner Cameron Robinson later scored off Noah Wrights’ base hit to put the Blue Devils in a two-run hole.
Self retired the side in order in the top of the sixth, and he and Grace stranded the final Sulligent baserunner in the seventh to secure the win.
Also at the plate for Westbrook, Wright went 2-for-2 with two RBI, while Windle went 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored.
Westbrook head coach Jerry Windle was pleased with his team’s mental toughness in fighting back after falling behind.
“Sulligent is a good team, and we’ve had a couple of games against good teams when we were able to bounce back. I was proud of the level of how we competed. Especially over the last half of the season, our bats had not been great, and we’ve really put it together over the past few weeks.”
The Game 2 victory was due in large part to Windle’s pitching performance. In a complete-game effort, the junior righthander limited the Blue Devils to seven hits, two runs and one walk while fanning nine. Over the first seven innings, he stranded nine baserunners, none of whom reached third. Sulligent scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh before a double play and am infield lineout ended the threat.
Windle provided himself all the support he would need in the top of the first when he scored off an error.
Westbrook pushed across three more runs in the second courtesy of Clark Hodnett, Wright and Greyson Carroll to widen the gap to 4-0. Hodnett scored on a wild pitch in the third, while Jackson Bryant (pictured above) singled in Self in the fifth to make it 6-0.
In the sixth, Grace drove in Carroll and later scored on a balk to close out the scoring.
Grace went 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored, while Self went 2-for-4 with a run scored.
“Both Brodie and Hugh did a great job for us in this series,” said Jerry Windle. “They stayed ahead of the hitters and threw a lot of strikes. Brodie had every chance to not respond when they jumped on him early, and he responded.”
Westbrook is quite familiar with their third-round opponent. The Warriors and Eagles have met in the state playoffs two of the past three years, including last season’s quarterfinals and the 2019 semifinals.
“[Decatur Heritage] is a good team that has a lot of seniors,” said Jerry Windle. “They can really hit the baseball and they’ve got at least three really good pitchers. It’s going to be a battle for us, for sure. Plus, their coach (Steve Meek) is retiring after this year, so this will be kind of a swan song motivation for them. We’ll definitely have to be prepared and play hard.”