Sweet Water baseball holds ring ceremony

(Photos by Johnny Autery)

Sweet Water’s Jonah Smith receives his state championship ring from head coach John Gluschick.

Sweet Water alum Will Huckabee receives his state championship ring from head coach John Gluschick.

Sweet Water standout Smith to sign with UAB

Jonah Smith

SWEET WATER – The Bulldog ace has picked a new home. Sweet Water High School senior Jonah Smith has parlayed his dominant junior campaign into a Division I scholarship after committing to sign with the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

“It’s just a great academic school and I really like their head coach, Coach (Brian) Shoop. He’s a Christian and I like that about him,” Smith said of the opportunity to take the mound for the Blazers when his high school career is complete.

Jonah Smith receives the Class 1A MVP trophy from Luke Hallmark.

Smith earned 2017 Class 1A Pitcher and Player of the Year honors from the Alabama Sports Writers Association as well as Super 10 recognition after helping to lead the Bulldogs to the state championship.

“He’s a player of great character. He’s going to hustle. He’s a bulldog. He’s a team player. He’s not selfish and he’s going to work as hard as he can. UAB is getting a good one,” Sweet Water head coach John Gluschick said of the player UAB is getting. “The sky is the limit. UAB has a great coaching staff. There are a couple of things I know Jonah needs to work on and we’re going to touch that here. Probably his slide step, quicker to the plate, mixing up his moves. Coach Shoop, Coach (Perry) Roth, awesome, awesome coaches and Jonah is in great hands. The sky is the limit for him. He’s going to be a good one.”

Smith, who got the extra-inning walk-off hit that won the Bulldogs the state championship, made his reputation on the mound as one of the most dominant pitchers in the state at any level last season. He went 14-2 on the mound with three saves while posting a 1.11 ERA with 123 strikeouts over 88 innings of work. Smith allowed only 49 hits and 14 earned runs all season to boost a microscopic 0.78 WHIP.

“I don’t think it has set in yet because I’m still in high school and I’ve got to finish my senior year, but I’m expecting that to happen very soon,” Smith, who also garnered attention from programs at Auburn and East Central Community College, said of his new circumstances. “It’s a big relief because now I can worry about my senior year and just make the grades I have to make, then go to UAB.”

As Smith and his squad set their sights on repeating as Class 1A state champs, the hurler has a list of personal gains he would like to make in order to improve his game before facing collegiate competition.

“Just throw more strikes, try to stay in the strike zone more than I did last year, and try to cut off the walks,” he said.

“It’s huge because, now that Jonah has signed and we had some other guys sign with junior colleges,” Gluschick said of the impact such a signing has on a prep program. “These guys want to do the same thing. They love baseball. They love the game. And any way you can further your education through baseball, that always helps. That’s a goal for some of these kids now. They see that it’s attainable.”

Smith will likely autograph his National Letter of Intent during the early signing period in November.

Demopolis hosting 7U state tournament this weekend

Demopolis is readying for the 2017 Cal Ripken 7U Alabama State Tournament set to take place at the Sports-Plex Friday through Sunday.

Opening ceremony for the eight-team tournament are set for 8:30 a.m. Friday. The Black Warrior Pool will feature Athens, Westside B of Mobile, Spanish Fort and Demopolis. The Tombigbee Pool includes Phenix City, Florence, Westside A of Mobile and Semmes. Each pool will feature four games on Friday and two more on Saturday morning before elimination play begins.

The Tombigbee Pool schedule is as follows:

FRIDAY (Field 6)

9 a.m. – Semmes vs. Phenix City

10 a.m. – Florence vs. Westside A

2:30 p.m. – Phenix City vs. Florence

4:30 p.m. – Westside A vs. Semmes

SATURDAY (New Era Field)

9 a.m. – Semmes vs. Florence

11 a.m. – Phenix City vs. Westside A

The Black Warrior Pool schedule is as follows:

FRIDAY (New Era Field)

9:30 a.m. – Demopolis vs. Athens

11:30 a.m. – Westside B vs. Spanish Fort

3 p.m. – Athens vs. Westside B

5 p.m. – Spanish Fort vs. Demopolis

SATURDAY (Field 6)

9:30 a.m. – Demopolis vs. Westside B

11:30 a.m. – Athens vs. Spanish Fort

First round bracket play begins Saturday at 2:30 p.m. with four games. Second round bracket play is Sunday at 9 a.m. The championship game is set for 11:30 a.m. Sunday.

All in the Family: Petrey siblings earn Hitter of the Year honors

Davis Petrey hit .508 as a sophomore and earned AISA Hitter of the Year from the ASWA.

They apparently grow hitters in the Petrey household, at least, that’s the takeaway from the Alabama Sports Writers Association All-State baseball and softball teams released over the weekend.

When the softball squad released Saturday morning, Marengo Academy shortstop Macey Petrey found her name listed right behind the words Hitter of the Year in the AISA classification. When the state’s scribes released their baseball team 24 hours later, it was Marengo Academy shortstop Davis Petrey who found his name emblazoned to the right of the same title.

“It surprised me at first. Usually, it seems like it’s a senior or junior or somebody that gets something like that. I just wasn’t expecting it really,” Davis said of his initial reaction to the honor.

The award was less than surprising for Macey, a Mississippi State signee who was also the MVP of the AISA Class A state tournament in May. Petrey, who also earned Super 10 from the ASWA Sunday evening, hit .543 with 10 home runs, 73 RBI, 61 runs scored, 29 doubles and 36 stolen bases as a senior.

“Definitely, having to step up and lead the team. In the past, we’ve had some really good seniors that just have always been our leaders. We were lucky enough to have those players,” Macey said of the most challenging part of her senior season. “I’ve never really had to be in that leadership role. That was definitely something different. And, my dad coaching, obviously he pushes me to be better every day.”

Macey Petrey hit .536 with 10 homers and 73 RBI during a senior campaign that saw her win AISA Hitter of the Year from the ASWA.

Celebrated as it was, Macey’s honor came as little surprise to the Petrey household or the Longhorn faithful. Davis, however, was less expecting when he saw his name attached to the award. By his own admission, the sophomore shortstop did not start the 2017 season the way he would have liked.

“At the beginning of the year, I just was trying to hit the ball too hard,” Davis recalled before explaining the process that settled him in for the stellar campaign he pieced together. “Just going in and hitting off the tee for a long time, every day before games. Then it was just trying to get on base. All I was trying to do was not strike out. Don’t be an easy out.”

“His mental game is really strong. You don’t see a lot of sophomores that can just out there and hit senior pitching or really good teams and always get on base,” Macey said of her younger brother’s poise and performance. “Every time I watched, I swear he always got on base. I’m so jealous. He’s just an athlete.”

Davis finished his season with a .508 batting average to highlight a resume that also included 34 RBI, 30 runs scored and 14 stolen bases.

As honored as they were to receive their respective awards, the middle two Petrey children are the latest products of a household culture that is clearly passionate about baseball and softball. That household culture, they pointed out, is largely predicated upon the work of their patriarch, Chris.

“Probably my dad,” Macey said of the love that she and Davis have had for their respective sports. “He played until he couldn’t play anymore. It’s probably not more the love of the sport, but the work that’s put into the sport. From there, you learn to love and grow in the sport. It’s just really fun.”

“He just never really made it one of those things that wasn’t fun. You got to go out to the baseball field after school. You didn’t have to go home right after school. You get to have fun,” Davis explained.

As they reflected upon the individual numbers, personal accolades and team state championships that comprised the 2017 season for both the Longhorn baseball and softball teams, the duo acknowledged the important role their father has played in the process.

“A lot kids, to me, their parents push them so hard to the point that it’s not fun. Our dad has always tried to make us the best we can be, but he has never pushed us to a point where we don’t have fun and we don’t want to play. It has always been just fun,” she said.

Macey and Davis are the children of Chris and Ashley Petrey of Demopolis.

ASWA names Mr. Baseball/Mrs. Softball; Latham, Smith make Super 10

HOOVER – Decatur’s Tanner Burns and Westminster Christian’s Annie Willis were named Mr. Baseball and Miss Softball, respectively, by the Alabama Sports Writers Association on Sunday night at the group’s 46th annual convention at the Hyatt-Wynfrey in Hoover.

In addition, Mobile Christian’s Ethan Hearn was named the recipient of the ASWA’s Jimmy Smothers Courage Award. Named after the long-time sports editor of the Gadsden Times and guiding force in the ASWA, it recognizes his commitment to local and high school sports coverage, and honors a high school athlete who has overcome adversity and shown immense courage.

Burns, expected to be a high choice in the Major League Baseball player draft this week, was selected the ASWA’s Class 6A first-team shortstop and the 6A Player of the Year when the group’s prep committee met last week to select its all-state team. Burns was also the 6A hitter of the year in 2016 as a utility player, a first-team pitcher in 2015 and first-team designated hitter as a freshman.

In 37 games for the 32-5 Red Raiders, the senior hit .467 with 18 homers, 46 RBI, 49 hits and 56 runs. He walked 29 times and struck out just six times. As a right-handed pitcher, Burns went 10-1 with a 0.88 ERA and 116 strikeouts against 22 walks, while allowing eight earned runs in 64 innings. The Auburn signee helped Decatur to the quarterfinals – where the team was ranked 32nd in the nation before its loss to Cullman.

Willis was the Pitcher and Player of the Year in Class 4A in helping her team to a runner-up finish and a 51-4-1 record. With 543 strikeouts this year, she finished her pitching career with 1,975. This year, she went 43-3-1 and had an ERA of 0.40. She pitched five no-hitters, three perfect games and 21 shutouts. Willis allowed 44 walks, 90 hits and 15 earned runs in 259 2/3 innings.

The senior hit .464 this year with 12 homers, 64 RBI, 70 hits, scored 40 runs, walked 23 times and struck out just nine times. She was a first-team all-state pitcher as a junior and sophomore and was honorable mention as a freshman. The Troy signee helped the Wildcats to a high-water mark of 14th in the country.

Hearn was honored for his courage in the face of tremendous adversity. The sophomore returned from football practice on a Thursday night last November to find his mother dead of an apparent suicide. Though his teammates and coaches rushed to his house to comfort him that night, few expected him to make the trip to Oakman early the next morning for the team’s Class 3A quarterfinal playoff game. Not only did Hearn make the trip, he made 8.5 tackles in a Mobile Christian victory and eventually helped power the Leopards to the title game.

ASWA SUPER 10 VOTING
(First place votes in parentheses)

BASEBALL
Tanner Burns, Decatur                                 (9) 117
Bubba Thompson, McGill-Toolen              (2)   87
Jacob Heatherly, Cullman                                    80
Cody Greenhill, Russellville                                 66
Sam Praytor, Helena                                             57
Connor Jednat, UMS-Wright                               39
Taylor Hayes, Piedmont                                      37
Jonah Smith, Sweet Water                                  17
Brock Guffey, Hoover                                           13
Drew Williamson, T.R. Miller                              11

  1. BASEBALL WINNERS
    2017: Tanner Burns, Decatur
    2016: Owen Lovell, Cullman
    2015: Brax Garrett, Florence
    2014: Cody Reed, Ardmore
    2013: Keegan Thompson, Cullman
    2012: Mikey White, Spain Park
    2011: Daniel Koger, Huntsville
    2010: Daryl Norris, Fairhope
    2009: Luke Bole, Hartselle
    2008: Tyler Stovall, Hokes Bluff
    2007: John David Smelser, Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa
    2006: Del Howell, American Chr.
    2005: Colby Rasmus, Russell Co.
    2004: Patrick White, Daphne
    2003: Joey Doan, Baker
    2002: Allen Ponder, Lee-Scott Acad.
    2001: Eric West, Southside-Gadsden
    2000: Wade Miller, G.W. Long
    1999: Matthew Maniscalco, Oxford

SOFTBALL
Annie Willis, Westminster Chr.                  (8) 115
Jenna Ergle, Sumiton Chr.                           (3) 105
Kendall Beth Sides, Sumiton Chr.                      73
Mary Katherine Tedder, Spain Park                  70
Abbey Latham, Demopolis                                  56
Josie Page, Washington Co.                                49
Lacey Fincher, Faith Acad.                                   39
Zoie Emrick, Buckhorn                                         24
Alex Wilcox, Brantley                                            23
Amy Woodham, Slocomb                                    17

MISS SOFTBALL WINNERS
2017: Annie Willis, Westminster Chr.
2016: Ashlee Swindle, Curry
2015: Lacey Sumerlin, Baker
2014: Madi Moore, Winfield
2013: Kasey Cooper, Dothan
2012: Haylie McCleney, Mortimer Jordan
2011: Shelby Holley, Pisgah
2010: Leigh Streetman, Hueytown
2009: Hilary Phillips, Ider
2008: Lindsey Dunlap, Hueytown
2007: Whitney Larsen, Vestavia Hills
2006: Anna Thompson, Grissom
2005: Tara Donaldson, Baker
2004: Anna Thompson, Grissom
2003: Holly Currie, Pisgah

JIMMY SMOTHERS COURAGE AWARD WINNERS
2017: Ethan Hearn, Mobile Chr.
2016: Alex Wilcox, Brantley

 

Smith earns Pitcher, Player of Year; 11 Marengo County players make All-State

Jonah Smith

Jonah Smith starred on the mound for Sweet Water continuously in 2017 before getting the extra-inning, walk-off hit that plated two runs to win the Class 1A state championship. Then, as a surprise to no one, he hoisted the Class 1A state finals MVP award. His storybook season weeks in his rearview mirror, Smith garnered more superlatives this weekend as he received considerable recognition from the Alabama Sports Writers Association.

The ASWA named Smith a First Team pitcher on its 2017 Class 1A All-State Baseball Team. Moreover, Smith took two of the classification’s three highest honors. The Bulldog ace took Pitcher of the Year and Player of the Year honors after a stellar junior campaign that saw him go 14-2 on the mound with three saves while pitching to a 1.11 ERA with 123 strikeouts over 88 and a third innings of work. Smith allowed only 49 hits and just 14 earned runs all season to go along with a microscopic 0.78 WHIP. Smith also got it done at the plate, putting together a .372 average with 11 doubles, eight triples, 37 RBIs, 10 stolen bases and 29 runs scored.

He was one of five Bulldogs to gain All-State recognition. Joining Smith on the First Team were freshman second baseman Braiden Broussard and senior designated hitter Hunter Mendenhall. A catalyst for the Sweet Water offense, Broussard scored 25 runs and stole 18 bases on the season. He also shad a strong year on the mound with a 5-1 record that also featured a save. He compiled a 2.42 ERA with 26 strikeouts over 34 and two-thirds innings of work.

Mendenhall went .396 at the plate with nine doubles and 29 RBIs. His lone home run of the season helped oust Ragland in the semifinals.

Coastal Alabama signee Will Huckabee made Second Team in the outfield while freshman hurler Sasha Smith took Second Team honors at pitcher. A defensive wizard, Huckabee hit .380 on the season with 17 stolen bases, 31 RBIs and 36 runs scored. While the younger of the Smith brothers stole 27 bases and scored 46 runs out of the leadoff spot, he worked to a 2.19 ERA on the mound while striking out 33 batters over 54 and a third innings of work.

Davis Petrey

In the AISA ranks, Davis Petrey led a quintet of Marengo Academy Longhorns to earn All-State distinction. Petrey was the AISA Hitter of the Year after a season in which the sophomore shortstop hit .508 with 34 RBIs, 30 runs scored and 14 stolen bases. He took First Team honors alongside a pair of teammates in David Dunn and Weldon Aydelott.

A Meridian Community College signee, Dunn earned his spot as a pitcher, going 10-2 with a 1.17 ERA and a 0.36 WHIP. He struck out 104 batters over 84 innings of work and recorded four shutouts on the year. Aydelott hit .440 with three homers, six double, four triples, 32 RBIs and 22 runs scored to go along with 16 stolen bases while catching nearly every inning.

The 2017 AISA Class A state champions also saw outfielder Jacob Beck take Second Team honors after a season in which he hit .416 with 26 RBIs, 26 stolen bases and 19 runs scored. Senior hurler Austen Day was Honorable Mention at pitcher. He finished the year with a 1.11 ERA and a 9-1 record, having struck out 84 batters over 63 innings of work.

Demopolis also got All-State recognition in Class 5A as senior pitcher Hunter Colyar was Second Team. He turned in an outstanding campaign with included a 0.99 ERA, 0.63 WHIP and a 7-4 record. He struck out 105 batters over 63 and two-thirds innings and limited opponents to just nine earned runs all season.

The 2017 ASWA All-State Baseball Teams appear in their entirety below.

 

2017 ASWA All-State BASEball Team

 

CLASS 7A

First Team

P – Brock Guffey, Hoover, Sr.

P – Chandler Best, McGill-Toolen, So.

P – Koty Fulton-Tice, Enterprise, Jr.

P – Christian MacLeod, Huntsville, Jr.

C – Santi Garcia, Enterprise, Sr.

1B – Eric Toth, McGill-Toolen, Jr.

2B – Casey Gattenio, Foley, Sr.

3B – Trevor Andrews, Theodore, Jr.

SS – Rowdey Jordan, Auburn, Sr.

OF – Bubba Thompson, McGill-Toolen, Sr.

OF – Ethan Holsombeck, Oak Mountain, Sr.

OF – Brandon Agsalud, Hoover, Sr.

DH – Jordan Henshaw, Buckhorn, Sr.

DH – Jonathon Cribb, Theodore, Sr.

UTL – Brooks Fuller, Auburn, Jr.

UTL – Carson Skipper, Hewitt-Trussville, Jr.

 

Pitcher of the Year: Brock Guffey, Hoover

Hitter of the Year: Jordan Henshaw, Buckhorn

Player of the Year: Bubba Thompson, McGill-Toolen

Coach of the Year: Adam Moseley, Hoover

 

Second team

P – Gene Hurst, Oak Mountain, Jr.

P – Evan Baber, Central-Phenix City, Sr.

P – Caden Lemons, Vestavia Hills, Sr.

P – Garrett Brown, James Clemens, Sr.

C – Reid Powers, Sparkman, Sr.

1B – Kendall Cribb, Theodore, Fr.

2B – Tanner Jones, Auburn, Jr.

3B – Trevor Shelton, Sparkman, Sr.

SS – Hudson James, Gadsden City, Jr.

OF – Grant Thornton, Enterprise, So.

OF – Jordan Anderson, James Clemens, Sr.

OF – Garrett Morris, Auburn, Jr.

DH – Sonny DiChiara, Hoover, Jr.

DH – Austin Thaxton, Smiths Station, Sr.

UTL – Dalton Rone, Theodore, Sr.

UTL – Ford Luttrell, Bob Jones, Sr.

Honorable Mention
Pitcher:  
Carter Vickers, Sparkman, Sr.; Jerry Dale Bowman, Smiths Station, Jr.
Catcher:  
Slade Gorman, Central-Phenix City, Jr.; Tommy Crider, James Clemens, Jr.
First base: Tyson Lee, Huntsville, Sr.; Chris Lewis, Thompson, Sr.
Second base: 
Javier Vaz, Huntsville, Jr.
Third base:  John McDonald, Oak Mountain, Sr.

Shortstop:  Chance Warren, Enterprise, Jr.; Garrett Farquhar, Hoover, Sr.
Outfield:  Nathan LaRue, McGill-Toolen, So.; Teddy Benda, Auburn, Jr.
Designated hitter:  
Justin Foscue, Grissom, Sr.; Ryan Sparks, Gadsden City, Jr.
Utility: Cullan O’Shea, Mary G. Montgomery, Sr.; Kyle Davis, Buckhorn, Sr.

 

CLASS 6A

First team

P – Jacob Heatherly, Cullman, Sr.

P – Troy Cordrey, Helena, Sr.

P – Garrett McMillian, Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa, So.

P – Dakota Bennett, Brewer, Sr.

C – Sam Praytor, Helena, Sr.

1B – Von Seibert, Spanish Fort, So.

2B – Jacob McNairy, Athens, Jr.

3B – Noah Fondren, Cullman, Sr.

SS – Tanner Burns, Decatur, Sr.

OF – Jackson Tate, Park Crossing, Sr.

OF – Owen Lovell, Cullman, Sr.

OF – Colby Smelley, Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa, Jr.

DH – Jarred Howell, Decatur, Sr.

DH – Jordan Beck, Hazel Green, So.

UTL – Brody Syer, Oxford, Jr.

UTL – Dylan Watkins, Hueytown, Sr.

 

Pitcher of the Year: Jacob Heatherly, Cullman

Hitter of the Year: Sam Praytor, Helena

Player of the Year: Tanner Burns, Decatur

Coach of the Year: PJ Guy, Helena

 

Second team

P – Will Morrison, Cullman, Jr.

P – Mitch Myers, Opelika, Sr.

P – Will Collins, Hueytown, Sr.

P – Landon Green, Helena, Jr.

C – Jacob Burback, Chelsea, Sr.

1B – Caleb Johnson, Hueytown, Sr.

2B – Tanner Anderson, Stanhope Elmore, Sr.

3B – Tanner Snow, Southside-Gadsden, Sr.

SS – Cole Frederick, Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa, Sr.

OF – Tye Whatley, Northview, Sr.

OF – Will Canty, Hueytown, Sr.

OF – Nash Adams, Helena, Sr.

DH – Bryson Kirk, Athens, Jr.

DH – Tyler Miller, Spanish Fort, Jr.

UTL – Jay Bramblett, Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa, So.

UTL – Hunter Hudson, Carver-Montgomery, Sr.

Honorable Mention

Pitcher: Levi Thomas, Cullman, Sr.; Blake Petty, Clay-Chalkville, Sr.

Catcher: Hunter Kamplain, Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa, Sr.; Harrison Comerford, Daphne, Sr.

First Base: Logan Brooks, Southside-Gadsden, Jr.; Slade Harbin, Walker, So.

Second Base: Casey Page, Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa, Sr.; Clay DeWeese, Chelsea, Jr.

Third Base: Mark McGowin, Stanhope Elmore, Sr.; Chase Howard, Brookwood, Sr.

Shortstop: Logan Thompson, Northview, Sr.

Outfield: TJ Reeves, Hueytown, Jr.; Nick Ragsdale, Helena, Jr.

Designated Hitter: D’aries Davis, Minor, Sr.

Utility: John Marc Mullins, Homewood, Sr.; Daylen McGhee, Shades Valley, Sr.

 

CLASS 5A

First team

P – Cody Greenhill, Russellville, Sr.

P – Jamison Morris, Faith Academy, Sr.

P – Jacob Smith, Calera, Jr.

P – Cade Runyan, Etowah, Sr.

C – Jacob Bisharat, Pleasant Grove, Sr.

1B – Tyler Samaniego, Lee-Huntsville, Sr.

2B – Cooper Self, Guntersville, Jr.

3B – Brooks Carlson, Faith Academy, Sr.

SS – Preston Moore, Fairview, Jr.

OF – Judd Ward, Russellville, Sr.

OF – Devne Daniel, Corner, Sr.

OF – Eli Dunn, Etowah, Sr.

DH – Blaine Murkerson, Rehobeth, Jr.

DH – Christian Waltman, Faith Academy, Sr.

UTL – Carson Eddy, Briarwood, Jr.

UTL – Tyler O’Clair, Calera, Jr.

 

Pitcher of the Year:  Cody Greenhill, Russellville

Hitter of the Year:  Brooks Carlson, Faith Academy

Player of the Year:  Cody Greenhill, Russellville

Coach of the Year:  Danny Powell, Jackson

 

Second team

P – Chad Wray, Russellville, Sr.

P – Hunter Colyar, Demopolis, Sr.

P – Sam Strickland, Briarwood, Sr.

P – Gabe Shepard, Faith Academy, Jr.

C – Jacob Bobo, Etowah, Sr.

1B – Jack Knight, Rehobeth, Sr.

2B – Nick Swisher, Moody, Sr.

3B – Tri Overby, Beauregard, Jr.

SS – Patrick Music, Ardmore, Sr.

OF – Jaichis Holmes, Beauregard, Jr.

OF – Cole Steadman, Briarwood, Sr.

OF – Jackson Bell, Faith Academy, Jr.

DH – Quin Darius Crew, Calera, Fr.

DH – Jeff Moore, Pleasant Grove, Sr.

UTL – Griffin Carroll, Alexandria, Jr.

UTL – Trever Williams, Beauregard, Sr.

Honorable Mention

Pitcher: Caleb Lester, Dallas Co., Sr.; Herndon Akridge, St. Paul’s, Jr.

Catcher:  Chase Batchelor, Mortimer Jordan, Jr.

First base:  Hunter Reeves, Charles Henderson, Sr.; Chris Sargent, Faith Academy, Jr.

Second base:  Seth Dobbs, Marbury, Sr.; Jonathan Coleman, Brooks, Sr.

Shortstop: Chase Wilkerson, Headland, Jr.; Jarrett Eaton, St. Paul’s, Jr.

Third base: Ross Chandler, Guntersville, Sr.; Logan Michael, Brooks, Sr.

Outfield:  Tanner Eaves, Ardmore, Sr.; Gage Herring, Rehobeth, Sr.

Designated hitter:  Ethan Creel, Corner, Jr.

Utility:  Dalton Hall, Mortimer Jordan, Jr.; Skylar Holland, Russellville, Sr.

 

CLASS 4A

First team

P – Conner Jednat, UMS-Wright, Sr.

P – Will Peters, Tallassee, Sr.

P – Dylan Murphy, Madison Academy, Sr.

P – Colin Casey, Jacksonville, Sr.

C – Brady Sherrill, Haleyville, Sr.

1B – Sam Plash, UMS-Wright, Sr.

2B – Jaren Lockridge, Cherokee County, Sr.

3B – James Wilder, Trinity, Sr.

SS – Colin Edwards, Cherokee County, Sr.

OF – Ethan Wilson, Andalusia, Jr.

OF – Tanner Allen, UMS-Wright, Sr.

OF – Jaleel Anderson, Bibb County, Sr.

DH – Sam Kimel, Randolph, Jr.

DH – Colin Brewer, Cherokee County, Sr.

UTL – Carson Hall, Randolph, Sr.

UTL – Dee Williams, Tallassee, Sr.

 

Pitcher of the Year:  Conner Jednat, UMS-Wright

Hitter of the Year:  Brady Sherrill, Haleyville

Player of the Year:  Conner Jednat, UMS-Wright

Coach of the Year:  Chad Smith, LAMP

 

Second team

P – Winston Morgan, LAMP, Sr.

P – Blake Bennett, Haleyville, So.

P – Noah Ledbetter, Cherokee County, Jr.

P – Jake Christa, Madison Academy, Sr.

C – Jy Lockridge, Cherokee County, Jr.

1B – Jake Spivey, White Plains, So.

2B – Matt Hiott, Bibb County, Sr

3B – Reid Homan, Madison Academy, Sr.

SS – Weston Ball, Hokes Bluff, Jr.

OF – Josh Hall, Randolph, Jr.

OF – Parker Chavers, LAMP, Sr.

OF – J.D. White, Deshler, Sr.

DH – Cal Taylor, Haleyville, Jr.

DH – Wyatt Watson, Hokes Bluff, Sr.

UTL – Zach Roberts, Leeds, Jr.

UTL – Camden Lovrich, Trinity, So.

Honorable Mention

Pitcher: Dylan Teague, Hokes Bluff, Jr.; Hunter Rhodes, Wilson, Jr.

Catcher:  Harley Burgess, Saks, Jr.; Christian Cooper, UMS-Wright, Sr.

First base:  Will Clark, Andalusia, Jr.; Jake Glenn, Madison County, Sr.

Second base:  Jonathan Bostwick, Dale County, Sr.; Marshall Dean, Trinity, Sr.

Third base:  Casey Baynes, Tallassee, Jr.

Shortstop: Brody Moore, Oneonta, Jr.; Avery Moates, Wilson, Jr.

Outfield:  James Nix, Madison Academy, Sr.; Brady Greene, St. James, Sr.

Designated hitter:  Tyler Robertson, St. James, Jr.

Utility:  Andrew Norred, White Plains, Jr.; Landon Nance, Sipsey Valley, Sr.

 

CLASS 3A

First team

P – Thomas Langdon, Gordo, Sr.

P – Parker Henson, West Morgan, Sr.

P – Carson Crowe, American Christian, Jr.

P – JoJo Booker, T.R. Miller, Sr.

C – Easton Kirk, Piedmont, Sr.

1B – Jaylon Jenkins, Ohatchee, Sr.

2B – Trent Avery, Mobile Christian, Jr.

3B – Nick Pounders, Gordo, Jr.

SS – Koy Chapman, Gordo, Sr.

OF – Drew Williamson, T.R. Miller, Jr.

OF – Collin Herring, Gordo, Jr.

OF – Grayson Williams, Mobile Christian, Sr.

DH – Jacob Maples, New Hope, Sr.

DH – Sam Ladner, Mobile Christian, Jr.

UTL – Taylor Hayes, Piedmont, Sr.

UTL – Britt Sparks, American Christian, Sr.

 

Pitcher of the Year:  Thomas Langdon, Gordo

Hitter of the Year:  Drew Williamson, T.R. Miller

Player of the Year:  Taylor Hayes, Piedmont

Coach of the Year:  Jonathon Pate, Gordo

 

Second team

P – Thomas Boothe, Bayside Academy, Sr.

P – Dakota McCreless, Colbert Heights, Sr.

P – C.J. Hall, Oakman, Jr.

P – Bryson Hatcher, Mobile Christian, Sr.

C – Hunter Brittain, T.R. Miller, Sr.

1B – PJ Sledge, American Christian, Sr.

2B – Will Baker, Houston Academy, Sr.

3B – Tanner Jackson, Houston Academy, Jr.

SS – Taylor Morrow, Piedmont, Jr.

OF – Ethan Wells, Wicksburg, Jr.

OF – Connor Woods, Oakman, Jr.

OF – Shane Peters, West Morgan, Jr.

DH – Taylor Eubanks, Ohatchee, Sr.

DH – Connor Sirmon, Bayside Academy, Sr.

UTL – Hunter Nesmith, Carbon Hill, Sr.

UTL – Jeremiah Hixon, Excel, Jr.

Honorable Mention

Pitcher: Cade Willingham, Plainview, Jr.; Brady Gilbert, Geraldine, Sr.

Catcher:  Jon Avery, Oakman, Jr.; Jesse Sellers, Ohatchee, Jr.

First base:  Sloan Wilson, Lauderdale County, Sr.; Russell Smith, T.R. Miller, Jr.

Second base:  Brown Simmons, Montgomery Academy, Jr.; Cole Fendley, American Christian, Sr.

Third base:  Nolan Tilley, Excel, Jr.; Jackson Cook, Elkmont, Sr.

Shortstop:   Brantley Nelson, Slocomb, Sr.; Jake Maner, Lauderdale County, Sr.

Outfield:  Brendan Borden, Colbert Heights, Jr.; Hunter Dixon, Cottage Hill, So.

Designated hitter:  Kolton Farmer, Plainview, Sr.; Parker Griffin, Providence Christian, Sr.

Utility:  Spencer Andreades, Montgomery Academy, Sr.

 

CLASS 2A

First team

P – Collin Searcy, G.W. Long, Sr.

P – Daniel Waddill, Leroy, Jr.

P – Wells DeLoney, G.W. Long, Sr.

P – Tyler Self, Westbrook Christian, Sr.

C – Collin Huntley, Mars Hill, So.

1B – Dylan Davis, Section, Jr.

2B – Cole Hatcher, G.W. Long, Sr.

3B – Chase Butts, Leroy, Sr.

SS – Jeremiah Jackson, St. Luke’s, Jr.

OF – Grant Akridge, Elba, Sr.

OF – Seth Benefield, Fyffe, Jr.

OF – Bailey Deloach, Fayetteville, Sr.

DH – Payton McKee, Fayetteville, Sr.

DH – Ty Bolt, Section, Sr.

UTL – Peyton Thomas, Phil Campbell, Jr.

UTL – Sam Manning, Fayetteville, Sr.

 

Pitcher of the Year:  Collin Searcy, G.W. Long

Hitter of the Year:  Peyton Thomas, Phil Campbell

Player of the Year:  Jeremiah Jackson, St. Luke’s

Coach of the Year:  Morris Phillips, Fayetteville

 

Second team

P – Colton Linderman, Section, Sr.

P – Bailey Sellers, Thorsby, Sr.

P – Noah McDaniel, New Brockton, Sr.

P – Tyler Talton, Fayetteville, Jr.

C – Jon Karr, Leroy, Jr.

1B – Hayden Copeland, Phil Campbell, Sr.

2B – Cade Flanery, Samson, So.

3B – Dillan Baldwin, J.U. Blacksher, Jr.

SS – Andrew Redditt, J.U. Blacksher, Sr.

OF – Cory Peterson, Goshen, Jr.

OF – Ryan Tomlin, Ariton, Jr.

OF – Tanner Weaver, J.U. Blacksher, Jr.

DH – Kolby Bragwell, Red Bay, So.

DH – Peyton Higgins, Mars Hill, 8th

UTL – Cade Glass, Washington County, Jr.

UTL – Cooper Dean, J.U. Blacksher, Jr.

Honorable Mention

Pitcher: Solomon Foster, Leroy, Fr.; Chandler Allen, Red Bay, Sr.

Catcher:  Jase Jones, Fyffe, Sr.; Luke Murphy, Fayetteville, Sr.

First base:  Sam Abernathy, Mars Hill, Sr.; Landon Mura, J.U. Blacksher, So.

Second base:  Saylor Carroll, Vincent, Sr.

Third base:  Mackenzie Hicks, G.W. Long, Sr.; Cullen Stafford, Westbrook Christian, Jr.

Shortstop: Cal Burton, Reeltown, Sr.; Graham Blankenship, Thorsby, Fr.

Outfield:  Jordan Sellers, Leroy, Sr.; Trevor Gentry, Section, Jr.

Designated hitter:  Matthew Snell, G.W. Long, So.

Utility:  Dalton Adkison, New Brockton, Jr.; Cade Giddens, Reeltown, Sr.

 

Class 1A

First team

P – Jonah Smith, Sweet Water, Jr.

P – Kenneth Adams, Athens Bible, Jr.

P – Grayson Wakefield, Decatur Heritage, Sr.

P – Nathan Renfroe, Brantley, Jr.

C – Trace Lentz, Decatur Heritage, Sr.

1B – Carson Lindsey, South Lamar, Sr.

2B – Braiden Broussard, Sweet Water, Fr.

3B – Nate Scoggins, Highland Home, Sr.

SS – Jacob Free, Brantley, Sr.

OF – Albert Tinney, Southeastern, So.

OF – Daniel Phillips, Highland Home, So.

OF – Jeff Hunter, Decatur Heritage, Sr.

DH – Hunter Mendenhall, Sweet Water, Sr.

DH – Jeremy Burnham, Ragland, Sr.

UTL – Mitchell Etheridge, Athens Bible, Sr.

UTL – Noah Barnett, Hackleburg, Jr.

 

Pitcher of the Year: Jonah Smith, Sweet Water

Hitter of the Year: Jacob Free, Brantley

Player of the Year: Jonah Smith, Sweet Water

Coach of the Year: Bill Murrell, Athens Bible

 

Second team

P – Sasha Smith, Sweet Water, Fr.

P – Grant Shepherd, Sumiton Christian, Jr.

P – Chase Mansmann, Highland Home, Sr.

P – Walt Weaver, Pleasant Home, Sr.

C – Jeremy Boler, Holy Spirit, So.

1B – Dawson Broome, Spring Garden, Sr.

2B – David Smith, Victory Christian, Sr.

3B – Greyson Layton, Brantley, So.

SS – Caleb Headrick, Sumiton Christian, Sr.

OF – Will Huckabee, Sweet Water, Sr.

OF – Parker Odom, Brantley, So.

OF – Peyton Alexander, Sumiton Christian, Jr.

DH – Brynn McGuire, Hackleburg, Jr.

DH – Brayden Stordahl, Gaylesville, So.

UTL – Keaton Kilgro, Cedar Bluff, Jr.

UTL – Chase Gore, South Lamar, Sr.

Honorable Mention

Pitcher: Tyler Lucas, South Lamar, Sr.

Catcher: Ross Johnson, Cedar Bluff, So.; Cameron Williams, Houston County, So.

First base: Ethan Teague, Cedar Bluff, So.; Kyler Weeks, Highland Home, Sr.

Second base: Sam Contorno, Holy Spirit, So.; Edge Branum, Brantley, Jr.

Third base: Jackson Justus, Coosa Christian, Jr.; Hayden Nix, Athens Bible, Sr.

Shortstop: Austin Stordahl, Gaylesville, Sr.; Joey Williams, Houston County, Sr.

Outfield: Caleb Garrett, Coosa Christian, Sr.; Garett Norton, Millry, Jr.

Designated Hitter: Harrison Cheatwood, Victory Christian, Sr.

Utility: Brandon Crane, Gaylesville, Sr.; Connor Fordham, Wadley, Jr.

 

AISA

First team

P – David Dunn, Marengo Academy, Sr.

P – Dillon Smith, Clarke Prep, Sr.

P – Daniel Holley, Glenwood, Sr.

P – Kohner Massey, Macon-East, Sr.

C – Weldon Aydelott, Marengo Academy, Sr.

1B – Jarrett Carter, Glenwood, Sr.

2B – Patrick Dunn, Clarke Prep, So.

SS – Davis Petrey, Marengo Academy, So.

3b – Seth Meadows, Macon-East, Sr.

CF – Carson Allison, Glenwood, Sr.

OF – Dalton McKenzie, Monroe Academy, Jr.

OF – Tanner Stinnett, Bessemer Academy, Sr.

DH – Cole Little, Crenshaw Christian, Sr.

DH – Nick Adams, Glenwood, Jr.

UTL – Andrew Lambert, Monroe Academy, Sr.

UTL – Connor Davis, Macon-East, Sr.

 

Pitcher of the Year: Daniel Holley, Glenwood

Hitter of the Year: Davis Petrey, Marengo Academy

Player of the Year: Daniel Holley, Glenwood

Coach of the Year: Gary Johnson, Eastwood

 

Second team

P – Reece Burbage, Pike Liberal Arts, Sr.

P – Jerred Barnes, Autauga Academy, Jr.

P – Trace Holder, Monroe Academy, Sr.

P – Keagan Guthrie, Jackson Academy, Sr.

C – Drew Baker, Macon-East, Jr.

1B – Chandler Lunn, Macon-East, Sr.

2B – Andrew Hines, Eastwood, Jr.

SS – Austin Thrasher, Northside Methodist, Sr.

3B – John David Willis, Abbeville Christian, Sr.

OF – Jacob Beck, Marengo Academy, Jr

OF – Reed Jinright, Pike Liberal Arts, Jr.

OF – Brandon Reid, Lowndes Academy, Sr.

DH – Andrew Lyle, Lee-Scott, So.

DH – Brandon Moseley, Glenwood, Sr.

UTL – Mason Hand, Northside Methodist, Sr.

UTL – Gunnar Henderson, Morgan Academy, So.

Honorable Mention

Pitcher: Austen Day, Marengo Academy, Sr.; Slade James, Glenwood, Jr.

Catcher: Lane Powell, Monroe Academy, Sr.; Brayton Brown, Morgan Academy, So.

First base: Luke Lankford, Jackson Academy, Sr.; Wade Howard, Lowndes Academy, Sr.

Second base: Grey Humphries, Bessemer Academy, Sr.; Cole Roper, Crenshaw Christian, Sr.

Third base: Christian Beasley, Lakeside, So.; J.P. Sanders, Tuscaloosa Academy, Sr.

Shortstop: Hunter Davis, Chambers Academy, Jr.; Benjamin Johnson, Eastwood, So.

Designated Hitter: Blaine Smith, Bessemer Academy, Sr.; Brantley Ward, Patrician Academy, Sr.

Outfield: Jordan Brownlee, Patrician Academy, Sr.; Marcus Gray Norton, Clarke Prep, Jr.

Utility: Noah Wilder, Bessemer Academy, Sr.; Slade Ivey, Hooper, Sr.

Sweet Water sweeps Watchman baseball awards

When you go 14-2 on the mound along with three saves and just happen to hit the walk-off single to win your school’s first state championship in 27 years, it’s just about a no-brainer that you’ll be the Player of the Year. Such is the case for Sweet Water junior Jonah Smith.

He was Marengo County’s top player from wire to wire in 2017, dominating on the mound over 88 and a third innings of work. He struck out 123 batters against only 20 walks with a stunningly low 1.11 ERA. Smith’s exploits on the pitching rubber became the stuff of local lore during the Class 1A state champs’ playoff run as Smith and his 89 mile-per-hour stuff picked up game one wins against Sumiton Christian, Brantley and Ragland in consecutive rounds only to come back and pitch in relief in game two of each series. Against reigning champion Decatur Heritage in the state finals, Smith was little less than dazzling as he set down 14 consecutive batters at one point. Smith also lacked very little at the plate, hitting .372 on the season with 11 doubles, eight triples, 37 RBIs and 29 runs scored.

While Smith is the 2017 West Alabama Watchman Baseball Player of the Year, honors for Coach of the Year go to John Gluschick of Sweet Water. Gluschick had his team in the Top 3 of the ASWA Class 1A standings all season long. That season, which was one for the ages for the Bulldogs, ended with Sweet Water at 32-8 and holding the Class 1A state championship.

The 2017 West Alabama Watchman All-County Baseball Team is as follows:

C – Weldon Aydelott, Marengo Academy

1B – David Dunn, Marengo Academy

2B – Chandler Barton, Demopolis

3B – Chance Broussard, Sweet Water

SS – Davis Petrey, Marengo Academy

OF – Charles Casper, Demopolis

OF – Sasha Smith, Sweet Water

OF – Will Huckabee, Sweet Water

OF – DeDe Davis, Demopolis

DH –Hunter Mendenhall, Sweet Water

DH – Jacob Beck, Marengo Academy

UTIL – Brad Collins, Marengo Academy

UTIL – Braiden Broussard, Sweet Water

UTIL – Jonathan Lewis, Demopolis

P – Jonah Smith, Sweet Water

P – Hunter Colyar, Demopolis

P – Austin Day, Marengo Academy

P – R.J. Cox, Demopolis

Riverwalk-off: Dawgs take state (gallery)

Smith subdues Decatur Heritage as Sweet Water takes game one

Jonah Smith moved to 14-2 on the season Monday with a 4-2 victory over Decatur Heritage in game one of the Class 1A State championship series. Smith struck out seven and allowed four hits in the contest.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. –  Jonah Smith gets more comfortable as the game goes along, a fact that proved true again as Sweet Water beat Decatur Heritage 4-2 in game one of the Class 1A State Championship Monday.

“The first of the game, I was struggling to throw strikes. As the game went on, I got more consistent at finding the strike zone,” Smith, who struck out seven and seven and gave up four hits and two earned runs

“It was just the fastball. We’re going to let them hit the fastball and there in the seventh, they did,” Sweet Water coach John Gluschick said. “The top of the lineup is pretty good. He can throw strikes. We can work that breaking ball over and then we’ll be just fine.”

The Eagles got on Smith in the second inning when Jackson Parker opened with a single before Carter Sample repeated the feat to put runners on the corners. Smith settled in and induced a groundball up the middle that resulted in a 6-4-3 double play. Parker scored on the play but the rally was effectively nullified.

“We take so much pride in our defense,” shortstop Braiden Broussard said of the double play that settled the game for his starting pitcher. “It’s just fundamentals at that point. I don’t think about it. The ball is hit to me, I round it off, give him a good feed.”

The double play started a string of 14 consecutive batters retired by Smith, who struck out the final batter of the inning for the exclamation point.

Shamar Lewis scores the final Sweet Water run of the game on a passed ball in the sixth inning. Lewis notched two hits in the contest.

“He got key strikeouts and he had that confidence. He threw the ball hard. Nothing we haven’t seen before,” Decatur Heritage’s Grayson Wakefield said. “He had his stuff. Guys have those kind of days. I’ll give him props. He’s a good pitcher and good pitchers do that kind of stuff.”

The 1-0 Decatur Heritage lead evaporated in the bottom of the third when the Bulldogs scratched out a pair of runs. Sasha Smith reached on a fielder’s choice and later scored on an error of the bat of Will Huckabee to tie the game. Chastian Washington entered the game as a courtesy runner and scored on Hunter Mendenhall’s sacrifice fly to center for the 2-1 lead.

For his part, Decatur Heritage starting pitcher Clay Shaw was not shaken by the moment. He went six innings and struck out three while scattering eight hits and walking only one.

Sweet Water (31-7) added to its lead in the third when Broussard reached on a fielder’s choice and scored on a passed ball. Shamar Lewis singled in the sixth and later scored on a passed ball for the 4-1 lead. The run highlighted a two-hit day for Lewis after he scuffled in the semifinal round against Ragland.

“Coach and them made me work off the tee, start all the way over,” Lewis said of his work since last Wednesday’s semifinal wins over Ragland.

Decatur Heritage found its sticks in the top of the seventh when Grayson Wakefield and Jeff Hunter singled to open the frame before Parker took a beanball to load the bases with nobody out.

“We’re a good hitting team. I hope you see that tomorrow. We’ve been a good hitting team all throughout the playoffs,” Decatur Heritage coach Steve Meek said. “For us not to hit, it’s not the stage. I’m going to give him the credit. He did it.”

“Jitters is so big on this kind of stage and stuff. I guess we kind of knocked the jitters off late. We didn’t have anything to lose. We were down 4-1,” Wakefield said.

Smith (14-2) struck out the next batter he faced and forced a pair of fly balls to Huckabee in right field to end the game. The final Eagle run came when Wakefield scored on Walker Jones’s sacrifice fly to right.

Scott Luker and John Gluschick shake hands following Sweet Water’s game one win Monday.

“We’ve got a great team. They fight and they don’t ever give up,” Gluschick said. “Prime example, we’ve got bases loaded, no outs and we got out of it.”

“He has done that every game I’ve seen him. He can go get it out there. He can really play,” Meek said of Huckabee, who caught four balls in right field including a highlight reel grab that robbed an extra-base hit. “That ball against 90 percent of the teams we play probably goes to the fence and clears the bases. He’s just a really good outfielder. He can go get them.”

The contest saw more hits than the teams’ first meeting, which came on March 3. In that game, Smith allowed no hits over five and two-thirds innings of work and struck out 11. Shaw only allowed four hits in the regular season tilt.

“He pitched against us March 3 when we played them. We saw him two weeks ago against Brantley and last week against Ragland. Then we saw him again today. He’s a quality pitcher,” Meek said. “There’s no rollercoaster with him. When he’s on, he’s going to pound the strike zone. If you hit him, you hit him. He’s a quality pitcher.”

“I think it helped a lot,” Gluschick said of the familiarity his team gained with DHCA during their March meeting. “I mean, they threw the same guy that we saw there and we did too. We threw our best when we went up there. We knew a lot about him. We weren’t coming into a game blind. It really helped a lot.”

Tuesday’s 10 a.m. game two promises to bring something a little different as each team will show the other a different starting pitcher. Wakefield will take the hill for Decatur.

“They haven’t seen our sticks yet and they haven’t faced Grayson this year, so they don’t know what he’s got,” DHCA’s Jackson Parker said. “He throws the ball well and consistently for strikes. We’re a lot better hitting team than we showed today. He struck us out seven times and we don’t do that.”

“We’ve seen good pitching: Sumiton, Brantley and we’ll probably see a great one tomorrow,” Gluschick said. “We’re just going to try to battle, win every at-bat at the plate. Whatever it takes, walk, hit-by-pitch. We’re going to battle at the plate and see what happens. We’re not going to get our self out.”

Sweet Water sweeps Ragland to move to Class 1A state championship

(Photo by Johnny Autery)
Sasha Smith slides in safely to third base as coach John Gluschick looks on in game one.

SWEET WATER – By his own admission, postseason play had been unkind to Hunter Mendenhall, who was batting .294 in the playoffs and was just 1 for his last 10 heading into Wednesday’s Class 1A semifinal series-clinching victory over Ragland. Mendenhall was unkind to Ragland pitching in the contest as he doubled and homered to drive in two of the three Sweet Water runs in a 3-2 victory.

Mendenhall broke a scoreless tie with two out in the top of the fourth inning when he sent a solo shot beyond the fence in right center for the 1-0 lead.

“Right off the bat I felt like it was gone. I’ve been struggling the past couple weeks and I stayed with it grinding and got a blessing,” Mendenhall said.

The Purple Devils did not stay down long as senior Jeremy Burnham hit the first pitch of the bottom half of the inning to the scoreboard in left to tie the game. Freshman starter Sasha Smith gave up two more Ragland hits in the frame but battled back to strand both runners and preserve the tie.

Smith left after five innings of work have scattered five hits and two walks while striking out three. John Thomas Etheridge inherited Smith’s leadoff walk in the sixth but left the runner aboard due in part to senior right fielder Will Huckabee’s third highlight reel catch of the series. Huckabee darted to his right on a ball sharply hit to the gap in right center, extended his gloved left hand and snared the ball while falling forward to the ground.

(Photo by Johnny Autery)
Bulldog outfielder Will Huckabee slides to the ground after making a phenomenal catch a the late innings of game two.

“If it’s in the air, I’ve got to go get it. It’s mine. I’ve got to go get it. That’s every ball,” Huckabee said.

“Will, defensive player of the game. I don’t know how I’m going to replace him next year,” Sweet Water head coach John Gluschick said. “Even though we’ve got our No. 2 (pitcher) coming back; he’s had Tommy John, we’re still going to be good, but I don’t know how I’m going to replace Will. He has been so huge for us in right field.”

With the game tied 1-1 in the top of the seventh, Huckabee started the frame with a single through the left side. Mendenhall stepped to the plate and quickly found himself in an 0-2 hole. Huckabee stood on top of first base, clapped his hands violently and aggressively shouted at his classmate in the batter’s box.

“It’s kind of a secret thing, but I was just trying to get him to do his job,” Huckabee said of the moment. “He had a job and I’m glad he came through. Everything worked out.”

Mendenhall dug himself out of the 0-2 hole and rocketed a ball into the gap in right center to plate Huckabee for the 2-1 lead.

“You can never give up. We’ve been grinding all year for this, working hard every day. You can never give up,” Mendenhall said.

“Huge. Great at-bats in the clutch. He did a great job behind the plate. He caught 13 innings last Friday and he comes out here and gets two big hits,” Gluschick said of the Mendenhall. “He’s a senior. He stepped up.”

R.J. Rodgers checked in as a courtesy runner for Mendenhall as second base and promptly moved to third on Chance Broussard’s sacrifice bunt. Rodgers later darted home on a passed ball and went head first on a slide that put him in well ahead of the tag.

With the 3-1 lead, Etheridge took to the rubber again in the bottom of the seventh. After he coaxed a grounder, an errant throw put the first Purple Devil batter of the inning aboard. Gluschick wasted no time summoning game one starter Jonah Smith to the hill.

“We were going to give the ball to him. He is what got us here. He’s 13-2. He got a save,” Gluschick said. “You want your best guy in that clutch situation with the ball and, once again, he came through.”

Smith had 26 pitches remaining in his pitch count allowance after having thrown 94 in a complete game effort just hours earlier.

“Throw strikes,” Jonah Smith said of his mentality when he took the ball from his coach. “We were up by two runs and I told Coach Marshall in the dugout that I wanted to go back out to close the game. He said he would let me if J.T. let somebody on, so I just threw strikes and let them hit it.”

Stoney Merritt, who reached on a fielder’s choice, later made his way home on Burnham grounder to second to cut the lead to 3-2. With the tying run 90 feet away and the winning run at first base, Smith got the Ragland five-hole hitter to fly out to straightaway center to end the game.

“I feel like the coaches have confidence in me to throw strikes and just end games,” Smith said.

Sweet Water 10, Ragland 2

Sweet Water coaches also had plenty of confidence in their junior ace to throw strikes and start game as well as Smith scattered four hits in a complete game effort to open the series.

“He has good enough stuff on his fastball where he can throw it by most hitters,” Gluschick said of Smith. “First game he had a good breaking ball. That adrenaline was flowing here in game two. He just battled. He’s a bulldog. Through and through, he’s a bulldog.”

Ragland jumped on Smith early when Noah Hollingsworth singled in the top of the first before scoring on Coby Fuller’s triple. Fuller later scored on Burnham’s RBI grounder for the quick 2-0 lead.

“First inning they came out hitting. We figured they were going to because fastballs is pretty much all we throw,” Smith said. “I made my adjustments on the curveball, started throwing that for strikes and they couldn’t handle it.”

Sweet Water knifed the deficit in half in the bottom of the second when Chance Broussard singled and later scored on Braiden Broussard’s single to make it 2-1.

The Bulldogs took command in the third when they hung five runs on the board. Sasha Smith tripled and scored on Jonah Smith’s single. Chastain Washington and Huckabee scored on Mendenhall’s two-run single to give the Bulldogs the lead. Mendenhall then moved the lead to 5-2 when he swiped home as teammate Braiden Broussard was busy evading a tag to get himself out of a rundown between first and second. He later scored on an error for the 6-2 lead.

“We were focused. We knew they threw down against Jonah and we were just really seeing the ball,” Gluschick said of Ragland, which saved its ace starting pitcher for game two. “We had a good day of practice yesterday just kind of playing pepper with the ball. We were shortening our swings and striving to make contact up the middle.”

The Bulldogs added to the lead in the fourth when Huckabee tripled in Sasha Smith. Braiden Broussard scored on an error in the fifth to move it to 8-2. A pair of errors plated Sasha Smith and Huckabee in the seventh for the final runs of the game.

“It’s crazy. I can’t believe it right now. I feel like I’m about to cry. It’s crazy,” Huckabee, who had four of his team’s 15 hits in game one, said of the emotion of advancing to the state championship round.

“We put it on our schedule and put it one our roster. Last year I put it on 2016 2A area champs. This year, we started from game one 2017 1A state champs. We changed the mindset,” Gluschick said. “We knew we were dropping down to 1A. We knew we were going to be good and we played a tough schedule that got us ready for this down the stretch.”

Sweet Water (30-7) is set to face Decatur Heritage at 4 p.m. Monday before returning to Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery Tuesday at 10 a.m. for game two.

“We’ve got to say on our hitting. Our defense is picking up good. We’ve just got to stay on our stuff, just play Sweet Water ball,” Huckabee said.

“You can’t get in a bigger stage than this right here. We’ve played a good schedule and that has prepared us,” Gluschick said. “I just want them to have fun. I just want them to get out there and have fun.”