Westbrook loses state title series to G.W. Long


Westbrook Christian’s Alex Perkins squats near the on-deck area after the Warriors lost to G.W. Long on Friday at Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery. Long swept Westbrook in two games to win the Class 2A state high school baseball championship. (Photo by Marc Golden | Gadsden Times)


MONTGOMERY — Alex Perkins hung his head, knelt in the on-deck circle and looked up to watch a celebration unfold in front of him.

“Obviously, you get all the way here and you get to watch the other team dogpile and grab that blue trophy, it hurts,” the Westbrook Christian senior shortstop said.

The sixth-ranked Warriors lost 5-0 to No. 4 G.W. Long in the 2A state championship series Friday at Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery. The Rebels swept the best-of-three series after taking a 3-2 win in Game 1 Thursday.

It was a record 13th state title for the Rebels, while the Warriors were going for their first in school history in just their second appearance at state.

“My guys battled the best they could,” said Westbrook coach Matt Kennedy, whose team finally got over the hump this season after being knocked out of the playoffs in either the semifinals or quarterfinals each of the past four years. “They were able to make the plays and execute, and we didn’t. When we went into this, we thought it was going to be a defensive and pitching duel, and sure enough it was.”

G.W. Long’s Tristan Rice kept a Westbrook offense that seemed to be hitting its stride over the past couple of weeks in check. Rice allowed just four hits and struck out four in the complete-game shutout. The Rebels had two solid performances on the mound over the past two days, as series MVP Garrett Davis allowed just four hits and two runs in Thursday’s opener.

“I knew if I played my game, the defense would back me up,” Rice said. “I didn’t feel too nervous about it when I went up there.”

G.W. Long’s Stetson Payne and Trey Walding made spectacular diving catches in the outfield, and the Rebels’ defense didn’t commit and error. Westbrook Christian made three miscues. G.W. Long coach Drew Miller called Payne’s catch in the sixth a “backbreaker.”

“That’s been the heart and soul of this team all year — pitching and defense,” Miller said. “The last half of the year they really bought into trying to make routine plays. We didn’t make real routine plays today, we made great plays. That’s a sign of a great championship team.”

Miller should know as he played on four straight state championship teams with the Rebels in the 1990s playing for his dad, Earl.

“Sometimes, it’s hard to fathom the magnitude of what we did in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s,” Miller said. “It was an unbelievable run we did make, and sometimes you take those things for granted. I think sometimes people don’t realize how hard it is. These guys realize now how hard it is.

“It’s very humbling,” he said as he began getting emotional. “It’s been overwhelming this week the support we’ve gotten from the community. I was a part of this and this is a very special part of my family’s life.”

Though he was disappointed Friday, Kennedy wanted to look at the Warriors’ entire body of work in 2013.

“I’m just real proud of these guys,” he said. “Regardless of the outcome, they’ve had a great season and a great run.”

But that run ended Friday as G.W. Long was able to cash in runs in the first and third before scoring three in the fourth.

Davis started the scoring in the first with an RBI single off Westbrook starter Jake Kilgo. Westbrook looked to answer in the bottom half of the inning when Jordan McCartney walked and Jonathan Ford singled. But McCartney’s pinch runner Jesse Brittain and Ford were stranded at second and third. The Warriors also left a runner in scoring position in the second.

“That’s the thing about baseball. You gotta be able to execute at the time you’re called on,” Kennedy said. “We just didn’t execute and score the runs, and they did.”

The Rebels’ run in the third inning came after a bit of controversy. Spencer Ivey laced a Kilgo offering into left-center field, but Mikhail Cazenave covered a lot of ground and made a diving catch for an out. After rolling twice, the ball popped free and the umpire called him safe, giving Ivey a double and sending Kennedy onto the field for a meeting. Ivey eventually came around to score to make it 2-0.

“I think Mikhail made a great effort,” Kennedy said. “I know it’s gotta be a continuation of the play for it be counted as an out. He rolled up on his arm, and the umpire saw one thing, so naturally I had to go ask him and make sure that he saw what he did.

“That didn’t determine the outcome of the game. These guys (the umpires) do a great job just like the coaches and players. They did a great job in two ballgames I feel like. There wasn’t a call that made or broke the whole series.”

G.W. Long put the game away in the fourth inning off Westbrook reliever Blaine Beaird. Turner Lee got down a squeeze bunt for the first run, while Payne and Ivey added RBI singles.

From there, Beaird settled in for scoreless innings in the fifth and sixth. He got the first out in the seventh before Matthew Reaves got the final two outs.

Kilgo suffered the loss, allowing two runs on five hits in three innings.

At the plate, Perkins, McCartney, Ford and Reaves each had hits.

Like his coach, Perkins after the game chose to focus on the positives of the season.

“All in all, we had an awesome season,” he said. “I love our team, we had a great run and a great time.

“We’re not disappointed in the season, but we’re disappointed in the outcome of today. But we’re building on the tradition at Westbrook that we’ve been building the last few years.”