Photo: The Westbrook Christian baseball team and coaches celebrate following the final out in the Warriors’ 11-1 victory over G.W. Long in the deciding third game of the Class 2A state championship series last Tuesday (May 18) at Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
In two previous trips to the Class 2A state baseball championship series under head coach Matt Kennedy, Westbrook Christian did not win a game, much less bring home the blue trophy to Rainbow City.
The third time was the charm for the Warriors last Tuesday (May 18) at Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery.
Facing three-time defending state champion G.W. Long in a deciding third game of the Class 2A championship, Brodie Self’s complete-game five-hitter and a six-run fifth inning sparked the Warriors (29-8) to an 11-1 victory. Westbrook came up short to the Rebels in the 1999, 2013 and 2019 championship series.
This was Kennedy’s 18th season coaching at Westbrook and 29th overall.
“For me personally, this is gratifying because coach [Drew] Miller does such a good job at G.W. Long. Those guys are perennial winners and a 2A power in the state. To be able to play them and come out with a victory says a lot about our program and where these guys are. Most of the time, you never know when your last game is going to be, but tonight we did, and our kids stepped up. We’ve battled back all year long, and I think that’s a testament to how hard these kids work.”
After Westbrook posted a 5-0 win in Monday night’s Game 1 at Paterson Field, G.W. Long responded with an 8-2 victory on Tuesday afternoon’s Game 2, forcing the deciding game.
After allowing a run in the bottom of the first, Self held the Skipperville squad to four hits over the final six innings. Only one Rebel baserunner made it to third base. Self struck out six and did not walk a batter.
“I’m very proud of Brodie,” said Kennedy. “We haven’t had that all year so what better way to end a high school season than a complete game by your No. 4 guy? I’ll guess we’ll call him No. 1 today, how about that? Brodie had some good outings the last few times [he pitched], and we felt like he’d give us a chance if he kept it in the strike zone.”
While Self was holding the G.W. Long lineup in check, the Warriors torched the Rebel pitchers for 13 hits, including six for extra bases. Caiden Wyatt gave Self all the support he would need in the top of the second when his double off the leftfield wall plated Presley White and Dalton Grace.
A pitching change in the top of the third did not improve the Rebels’ fortunes, as an RBI double by Samuel Dutton and a triple from series MVP Will Noles made it 4-1 in favor of Westbrook.
The Warriors came up empty with the bases loaded in the fifth, but more than made up for it in the following inning. With one out, Westbrook batted around the order, and a two-run single by Dutton and an RBI double from Self helped push the lead to 10-1.
Fisher Glasgow doubled and scored on Self’s sacrifice fly in the seventh, and Self ensured there would be no Rebel rally by retiring nine of the final 11 batters.
Self admitted he felt anxious after hitting Trevor Morris with the first pitch of Game 3, followed by Dasinger’s RBI single.
“I had a lot on my mind so it was very nerve-wracking at first, but I knew I had the best team in 2A right behind me,” he said. “I was just going to do my job and let them do what they do in every game. G.W. Long is probably the best team we’ve played all year, so it felt great.”
Dutton went 4-for-5 with two RBI and three runs scored, while Self helped his cause by going 2-for-4 with three RBI, Wyatt went 2-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored, Cole Paterson went 2-for-4, Noles had a hit, two RBI and a run scored, Micaiah Myers had a hit, an RBI and a run scored and White had a hit and two runs scored.
“Coming out here and playing such great competition in G.W. Long, it doesn’t get much better in baseball than that,” said Noles, who will play for UAH next season. “To come out with a win means everything to us.”
Dutton, the team’s ace pitcher, did not throw after the team’s first-round win over Lamar County and moved to either designated hitter and centerfield in the lineup.
“When I was out, we didn’t lose focus. We went out there every single day and competed,” he said.
“We said all year that we don’t lose twice [in a row],” said Patterson, who will play for Lawson State next season. “To get out there and get Coach Kennedy [a state title] is pretty special. I thought we had a lot of loud outs today, especially in that first game, and in that second game, I thought we were due to have a lot of those balls start falling, and they did.”
Westbrook had difficulty figuring out G.W. Long starter Jackson Chancy in Game 2. The junior righthander held the Warriors to four hits and two runs in 5.2 innings with five strikeouts. Westbrook did draw eight walks but left 11 men on base. Both Warrior runs came in the bottom of the fifth. Glasgow singled in Patterson and Grave came home on a balk. Patterson had two hits in the game, during which the Rebels scored three runs in the third, two in the fourth, one in the fifth and two in the sixth.
“We could have folded after that game, but our guys came out [in Game 3] and played and played and kept going, which is something we’ve seen all year, in our guys being resilient.
Having 10 seniors makes a big difference and makes my job pretty easy. I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to coach these young men.”
In the series’ opener on Monday, Noles tossed a five-hit shutout in a 5-0 Westbrook victory. In seven innings, the UAB signee struck out six and did not walk a batter. Only two Rebel baserunners advanced past second.
Glasgow led off the top of the first inning with a double and scored on a double play groundout. The Warriors made it 2-0 in the next inning on Grace’s RBI single. Westbrook got some insurance when Self’s two-run triple in the top of the third plated Noles and Dutton.
Noles cruised through the G.W. Long lineup from there, retiring 15 of the final 21 Rebel batters.
“I just told the guys to get me two runs,” said Noles after the game. “I had that vibe in the bullpen.”
After expressing thanks to the Westbrook fans and administration, Kennedy pointed to Noles, Dutton and Patterson as the motor that drove the Warriors’ engine during the postseason.
“Without these three guys playing like they have over the past three weeks, this wouldn’t be possible. I’m very, very thankful, and God has blessed us in a great way.”