Messenger file photo by Mike Goodson
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Even after his stellar high school pitching career was cut short after just one round in the Class 2A state baseball playoffs, Westbrook Christian senior Samuel Dutton made his presence felt during the 2021 postseason.
After missing the second round with a shoulder injury, Dutton (pictured above) was the team’s designated hitter in the quarterfinals. He returned to centerfield for the semifinals and championship series and played a big part in the Warriors’ first-ever state title won last month in Montgomery.
Dutton’s prowess on the mound, at the plate and on the field made him the Player of the Year of the 2021 All-Messenger baseball team.
In 53 innings, the LSU signee allowed 14 hits, three earned runs and five walks while striking out 117 batters. He went 9-0 and posted a 0.39 earned run average, which was the sixth-lowest all-time in one season. Dutton pitched seven shutouts that included 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. His 32 and two-third consecutive scoreless innings this season was fifth all-time. In 97 at-bats, 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.
For his high school varsity career from 2017 to 2021, Dutton posted the lowest career ERA at 0.77, finished 19th in 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 Westbrook baseball coach Matt Kennedy at Dutton’s signing ceremony in December. “God blessed Samuel 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 has worked harder than any other kid who’s come through here. We’ll miss Samuel’s ability, but what I’ll miss the most is seeing him out there during the summer and fall, doing the things that made him a better player and made our team better.”
Highlighting the first team pitching staff is Dutton’s teammate, Will Noles. A transfer from Etowah prior to his junior year, Noles was a big-time producer on the mound and at the plate. In 80.2 innings, the UAH signee allowed 11 earned runs and 28 walks while striking out 135 and posting a 0.955 ERA. He threw five shutouts, including one no-hitter. Noles went 11-2 overall and was undefeated in postseason play with a 5-0 record, including shutouts in the first round, semifinals and finals. He was named MVP of the Class 2A state championship series.
At the plate, Noles batted .446 with 50 hits, nine doubles, two triples, two home runs, 39 RBI and an on-base percentage of .552.
Filling out the first team staff is Hokes Bluff senior Payton Lemons, Southside senior Jacob Little and Sardis freshman Blaze Gerhart. As the Eagles’ ace with an 8-2 record, Lemons allowed 15 earned runs and 31 walks with 120 strikeouts and an earned run average of 1.75. Little went 5-2 for the Panthers with a 1.83 ERA and 46 strikeouts. He allowed 17 earned runs and 12 walks. Gerhart went 6-1 and helped the Lions make it to the second round of the Class 5A state playoffs. In 53 innings, he scattered 39 hits while limited the opposition to seven earned runs and 18 walks. He fanned 68 batters had had an ERA of 0.925.
The All-Messenger infield features Westbrook senior Cole Patterson at catcher, Westbrook junior Brodie Self at first base, Ashville sophomore Casey Phillips at second base, Westbrook senior Fisher Glasgow at shortstop and Hokes Bluff senior Hunter Burke at third base.
Patterson, who signed a baseball scholarship with Lawson State, finished the season with 37 hits, 33 RBI, a .325 batting average and a .404 on-base percentage. In 37 postseason at-bats, he batted .486 with 18 hits. Defensively, he caught 12 shutouts, four no-hitters and one perfect game.
Self finished with 35 hits (including seven doubles and three home runs), 26 RBI, a .304 batting average and a .399 on-base percentage. In 24 innings, he posted an ERA of 0.87 while allowing 22 hits, three earned runs and seven walks with 20 strikeouts. In his third career varsity start and first-ever in the postseason, Self threw a five-hitter in the Warriors’ 11-1 victory over G.W. Long in the second game of the Class 2A state championship series. Phillips posted a .412 batting average and a .559 on-base percentage along with 26 RBI, 25 runs scored and 10 doubles.
Glasgow batted .371 with a .503 on-base percentage along with 43 hits, 46 runs and 21 RBI. Burke ended up with a .463 batting average in 24 games.
Manning the All-Messenger outfield are Westbrook senior Presley White, West End senior Eli Pearce and Etowah sophomore Caleb Freeman. White had 32 hits and 30 RBI along with a .294 batting average and a .366 one-base percentage. In 22 games, Pearce had 31 hits, 23 runs scored and 11 RBI while posting a .484 batting average. He was 20 for 23 in stolen base attempts and did not commit an error while playing centerfield. Freeman finished with 33 hits, 17 RBI and 10 steals while hitting .446.
Hokes Bluff senior Drake Rainey finished with a .461 batting average, .538 on-base percentage, 41 hits (including 10 doubles) and 2( RBI to claim the designated hitter spot. Sardis junior Brody Samples had a solid year at the plate and on the mound to earn the utility spot. In 62 innings, he allowed 28 hits, 14 earned runs and 38 walks with 94 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.58. He batted .404 with 42 hits, 25 runs and 19 RBI to help the Lions win the area title and make it to the second round of the state playoffs.
Matt Kennedy is the All-Messenger Coach of the Year after guiding Westbrook to a 29-9 record, a 14th consecutive area championship and the school’s first state baseball title.
The second team pitching staff consists of Southside senior Michael Rich, Jr. (30 K’s, 2.55 ERA), Etowah senior Caleb Burns (35 K’s, 2.74 ERA), Gadsden City senior Andrew Jones (29 K’s, 17 hits, four earned runs, 1.18 ERA) and Ashville freshman Drew Layfield (8-2 record, 2.74 ERA).
The second team infield features Ashville junior catcher Dylan Harris (.451 BA, .581 OBP, 10 doubles, 33 runs scored, 16 RBI), Glencoe senior first baseman Greyson Ke-llett (455 BA, .565 OBP, 30 hits, five HR, 27 RBI), West End sophomore second baseman Tyler Jones (.329 AB, .447 OBP, 23 hits, 11 doubles, 16 runs), Ashville senior shortstop Tyler Bradley ( .355 BA, .449 OBP, 14 doubles, 25 RBI, 19 runs) and Gadsden City junior third baseman Kyle Cline (30 hits, 15 runs, 16 steals, .349 BA, .472 OBP).
The second team outfield includes Sardis senior Carson Grant (.388 BA, .480 OBP, 33 hits, 22 RBI, 17 runs), West End senior Trevor Willett (.356 BA, .500 OBP, 21 hits, 19 RBI, 15 runs) and Etowah sophomore Briggs Freeman (.343 BA, .446 OBP, 23 hits, 17 RBI).
Gadsden City junior Jase Gray (27 hits, 22 RBI, ,303 BA, .357 OBP) holds down the designated hitter spot, while Gaston senior Joseph Campbell is the utility player.
Editor’s note: The 2021 All-Messenger baseball team was determined based on season statistics submitted by local schools. Not all schools submitted informaiton.