Westbrook, G.W. Long face off in Class 2A title series
Wed. May 15, 2013 at 11:06 p.m. | By J.J. Hicks Staff Writer
Westbrook Christian's Matthew Reaves fields a ground ball against Ranburne on May 7. (Photo by Marc Golden | Gadsden Times)
Now is the time.
What had been only a concept has become reality, as No. 6 Westbrook Christian begins the Class 2A state high school baseball championship series against No. 4 G.W. Long Thursday at Paterson Field in Montgomery.
The Warriors (25-13) faced a difficult non-area schedule early in the season in preparation for just this time.
His team now in Montgomery and facing the games of their lives, coach Matt Kennedy believes they are ready to play.
“I told the guys, ‘You know, this is as relaxed as I’ve seen you just about all year.’ I was really pleased with the way they approached practice,” Kennedy said Wednesday.
He feels once the game begins, any lingering nervousness will disappear.
“Our whole goal in coming down here early was to go to Paterson (Field), get acclimated to it,” he said. “They’re 16- to 18-year-old young men, and I’m sure there will be some nerves, but I think once the game starts, hopefully that will subside.”
“I’m not nervous, I’m thinking of it as my last series in high school baseball and I’m going to play it like I’m supposed to play it and do what I’m supposed to do,” senior Matthew Reaves said.
Junior Blaine Beaird knows getting to Montgomery in itself is quite rewarding.
“It’s once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said. “It’s pretty special. Only two teams get to do it.”
Still, the team hopes come home with more than just memories. Senior ace Mikhail Cazenave, who plays in the outfield when not on the mound, knows the agenda.
“(My role is to) try to keep everyone motivated, keep everyone hungry to get that blue trophy,” senior Mikhail Cazenave said.
The Warriors come into the game off a dominant series against No. 2 Randolph County. They swept the Tigers 19-0 and 15-1 last week in the semifinals, in large part because of some outstanding hitting.
“We’ve been hitting the ball all year, but haven’t put it together hit after hit after hit,” senior Jordan McCartney said. “Now, I think we’re seeing the ball real well.”
“I’m sure we’ll see better pitching than we saw last week, and scoring 19 again is going to be hard to do,” senior Jonathan Ford said. “But we have to take quality at bats like we’ve been doing the last few weeks.”
The Rebels (30-8) will put a team on the field that looks similar to Westbrook’s.
They rely on pitching, defense and fundamentals.
“Both teams are built a lot alike,” Kennedy said. “I think it comes down to who can execute at the right time, who makes the plays and the right pitch at the right time. Whoever can do that and contain their nerves is the team that will come out on top.”
G.W. Long, which has won by shutout in five games this postseason, is led by pitchers Garrett Davis (11-2) and Tristan Rice (7-2). Davis has a 1.37 ERA with 116 strikeouts in 76.2 innings. Rice sports a 1.92 ERA. Caleb Coaker leads the team with a .439 batting average. Trey Walding is second on the team, hitting .419, and first with five homers and 48 RBI. Coaker’s 36 RBI are second on the team.
Still, despite all the pressure, the Warriors feel prepared to stake their claim to a state championship.
“It’s going to be awesome; can’t wait,” senior Clay Templeton said. “I’m just ready to get under the lights and play some baseball.”