Cast of characters drives Westbrook
Wed. May 15, 2013 at 11:15 p.m. | By Nick Johnston Sports Writer
Westbrook's Jordan McCartney singles against Randolph County on May 10. (Photo by Marc Golden | Gadsden Times)
RAINBOW CITY — The Westbrook Christian baseball team truly is a diverse cast of characters.
There’s Matthew Reaves, the talkative one who always manages to keep everyone loose.
Mikhail Cazenave is the typical pitcher who likes to goof around before dominating on the mound.
Jake Kilgo? He’s the guy who knows just how to make his coach, Matt Kennedy, laugh even in the most serious of moments.
Jonathan Ford is the born leader who never backs down from a challenge. Alex Perkins, even with the nickname “Sloth,” has a certain swagger and confidence about him when he’s on the field that others feed off of. Clay Templeton takes a no-nonsense approach and just gets his job done on the field, and Jordan McCartney, described as a quiet leader by his coach, provides the stability the team needs behind the plate.
Many others on the team certainly know their role, too.
“All of them are good kids,” Kennedy said. “That’s the cool thing about what I get to do.”
Their different personalities and strengths have combined to make up one the top teams in the state. The sixth-ranked Warriors get a chance to prove that Thursday when they begin a best-of-three series against No. 4 G.W. Long for the Class 2A state championship. First pitch Thursday in Montgomery at Paterson Field is at 4 p.m. and the series continues at 10 a.m. Friday at Riverwalk Stadium.
Six seniors — Reaves, Cazenave, Ford, Perkins, Templeton and McCartney — will start for Westbrook on Thursday. Kilgo, another key piece of the puzzle as a starting junior outfielder and pitcher, described the team as “blue collar.”
“With this team, we don’t have any superstars,” he said. “There’s not one guy that stands out. We don’t mind getting dirty and putting the work in. Everyone does their part, and that’s how we come out with wins.”
Westbrook Christian is a team full of leaders, too, like Perkins. The shortstop embraces his nickname, even if he thinks it doesn’t exactly fit.
“I’m not a lazy guy,” he said, “I just do everything slow. I’m always the last one ready.”
But when Perkins does get ready and steps on the field, Kennedy knows exactly what he’s going to get.
“The biggest thing I like about him as a shortstop, being in the middle of the field, he takes charge,” Kennedy said. “He’s not scared to make plays. He’s confident in what he does. He’s got great hands and feet and I think that’s what makes him solid right there in the middle.”
Beside him at third base is Reaves. He’s really hit his stride in the past two weeks of the postseason, leading the team offensively and keeping everyone positive no matter the situation.
“He tries to keep everybody up. He’s the positive guy,” Kennedy said. “You can’t play this game uptight, and Matthew understands that. I’ve just been real fortunate he’s had experience since the eighth grade.”
Kilgo also has been part of the varsity team since middle school and he “has no off switch,” according to Kennedy. While he anchors the outfield in center, he’s also one of the team’s top pitchers.
“Jake’s a blessed athlete,” Kennedy said. “He’s one of those guys you just don’t know what you’re ever going to get. It’s really fun to coach guys like him.
“When he’s out there, he’s focused on whatever task he’s gotta do and he’s just one of those kids that has the ability to turn a game around.”
So is Ford, a first baseman who is the more vocal leader of the bunch.
“What I like about Jonathan is you got a guy that played quarterback for us and played forward for us in basketball,” Kennedy said. “You get on a baseball field, yeah, he’s a born leader, but what I like about him is he’s hard-nosed. You’ve got a quarterback that was a middle linebacker two years ago.”
Templeton, a speedy outfielder and also one of the strongest on the team, may be one of the best nine-hole hitters in the state. He’s currently second on the team in batting average and has the ability send one out of the park at any time.
“Clay’s just a strong, strong young man,” Kennedy said. “The thing you get with Clay is, he’s going to go all out. He makes plays sometimes just because of his speed. And if you watch him hit and you ever see him turn on a ball, he can really strike a baseball.”
The player who has helped bring everything together is McCartney, a catcher who transferred from Gaston for his final year of high school. He’s making the most of his opportunity.
“At the first of the year, Jordan was a guy who was pressing and wanting to fit in, wanting to do this and I guess impress teammates and coaches,” Kennedy said. “You know what, I can say this, he’s just been the cornerstone and the stability we needed back there. He’s been steady every single ballgame. People don’t understand, you got to have a great defense to do what we do. But it all starts behind the plate, and he took that role on.”
McCartney will be behind the plate Thursday in Game 1 as Cazenave takes the mound. Cazenave is the ace of the pitching staff and has honed his craft for the Warriors since he was a freshman.
“When I was catching in college, he was your typical pitcher,” Kennedy said. “Goofing around all day during practice and then you put him on the mound and, man, he’s a competitor. You just want that guy to have the ball, because you know he’s going to give it everything he’s got for as long as he can go.”
Cazenave also has a knack for putting things in perspective.
“Ninety-feet bases, 60-foot mound, ya know?” he said when asked about his expectations of stepping on the field Thursday to start the biggest series of his team’s life. “It’s a baseball field with a lot bigger stands. ... It’s all the same between the lines.”