Westbrook Christian, Randolph County battle for trip to Montgomery
Thu. May 09, 2013 at 9:32 p.m. | By J.J. Hicks Staff Writer
Westbrook Christian coach Matt Kennedy talks to his team after the Warriors defeated Ranburne on Tuesday. (Photo by Marc Golden | Gadsden Times)
Class 2A, No. 6 Westbrook Christian is just two wins away from playing in a state high school baseball finals series in Montgomery.
The Warriors (23-13) host No. 2 Randolph County in a semifinal best-of-three state series Friday for a shot at bringing a state championship back to Rainbow City.
Randolph County is coming off a quarterfinal sweep of No. 3 Sheffield, winning 8-6 and 6-5.
Playing a top-level team shouldn’t worry the Warriors, which swept No. 1 Section in the second round. In addition, Westbrook played one of the tougher schedules in the area this season, one that included defending 6A state champion Oxford.
Despite the quality teams Westbrook played outside its classification, coach Matt Kennedy knows it would be a mistake to underestimate the 27-6 Tigers.
“They’ve got some really talented pitchers, from what I understand,” he said. “They play good defense. They’re going to take quality at-bats. To come out and do what they did against Sheffield, who has a really good pitching staff, they had to take good approaches. That says a lot about those guys.”
The Warriors are coming off a rain-delayed series against No. 10 Ranburne. In Game 1 last Friday, they took a 3-0 lead in the first inning with ace Mikhail Cazenave on the mound. However, the Bulldogs clawed their way back into a 3-all tie going into the seventh inning, when they rocked Cazenave for five runs and took a surprising 8-3 victory.
Westbrook responded to the loss as a wake-up call. The Warriors raced out to a 5-0 lead through two innings before the rain came. After play resumed Tuesday, the Warriors added six more runs to take an 11-0, five-inning win in Game 2. The dominance continued, as Jake Kilgo, Blaine Beaird and Matthew Reaves combined to lead the team to a 5-1 victory in the deciding game.
Jordan McCartney and Reaves hit home runs in Game 3 for a team that rarely hits them.
Combine homers, run production and outstanding pitching the Warriors got in Games 2 and 3 and Westbrook could be playing its best ball at the perfect time.
Kennedy has a wider view of his team and its play.
“To me, we’ve played pretty consistently all year long,” he said. “That’s one thing we try to do, just play consistent, throw strikes, play good defense. That way, you’ve got your best chance to win ballgames.”
The series begins Friday at 4:30 p.m. at William Stewart Park in Rainbow City.
Being at home brings with it numerous advantages, Kennedy said.
“I think it plays a part because you don’t have to travel,” he said. “You get to go to school all day, hear the encouragement of your classmates. Guys are comfortable here. They get to sleep in their own bed. There’s not an adjusted schedule. That, to me, is a huge advantage.”
The veteran picthing staff, Warrior lineup and caliber of play could prove to be enough of an advantage for the Warriors.
Cazenave, Kilgo, Beaird and Reaves give Westbrook four pitchers, at a minimum, who are experienced and proven in the postseason. The lineup has nine players who can get on base at any time, if not knock the ball out of the park.