SYLACAUGA -- The Sylacauga High School baseball team’s hopes of advancing to the state championship series came to an end Friday afternoon.
The Aggies fell to Briarwood 6-0 and 2-1 in the Class 5A semifinals.
Briarwood will take on Springville on Thursday at 4 p.m. at Patterson Park in Montgomery for Game 1 of the baseball championship series. The second game and the if-necessary third game will be Friday at Riverwalk Stadium.
Sylacauga head coach Jeff Bell was pleased with the way his team battled in the second game after a dismal showing in the opener.
“We knew at some point in the game that Briarwood was going to have a fight on their hands,” Bell said. “I am not going to take away anything from their guy on the mound; he is one of the best that we have seen this year. They are a very solid fundamental team. They earn everything that they get.
“It was one of those games that we expected; it was low scoring. They got big hits when they needed them. They got big at-bats when they needed them. Like I told our guys, we have no regrets. I got the effort that I needed and I can’t ask for more.”
After a scoreless first two innings, Briarwood broke through in the third. Wesley Helms hit an RBI single to center field to give the Lions a 1-0 lead.
In the fourth, Briarwood added what proved to be the winning run. John Ferguson came up with a two-out RBI single to center field that allowed Edward Stedman, who was running on the pitch, to score from first base to increase the lead to 2-0.
Sylacauga (20-9) finally came to life in the fifth in thanks to an outstanding defensive effort by Brady Davis.
With a runner on third and one out, Carson McKinney hit a deep fly ball to right that was caught by Davis for an out.
Davis then showed off his huge arm as he threw a bullet to catcher Nick Mauldin, who tagged out the runner at home for the third out, giving the capacity crowd something to cheer about .
“I told these guys before the game that all these people, this whole community, came to see you, are waiting for a reason to cheer for you, and that was the spark we needed,” Bell said. “They came alive; our dugout came alive. We felt good about our chances for the rest of the game going into that. It was unbelievable.
“Brady has done it all year. If we have a play at the plate, he is going to throw it on the plate. It was a really good play and it came at the right time.”
The momentum carried over to the top of the sixth as Jordan Ridgeway and Payton Natali hit back-to-back singles to left. Zach Dew hit into a fielder’s choice, which resulted in an out at second but advanced Ridgeway to third.
Mauldin hit an RBI single than scored Ridgeway and moved Dew to third.
Davis, who just made the amazing play in the field, had a chance to tie the game at 2-all, but he hit a fly ball to the right fielder for the third out.
“We are excited. The kids are excited,” Briarwood head coach Steve Renfroe said. “That is every kid’s goal. To watch this bunch go from an 0-11 start to the state finals has been fun to watch.
“We have tremendous senior leadership. The captains have been unbelievable. They never walked around like they were owed nothing. It is really rewarding to see these guys get to make that journey.”
Carson McKinley was the winning pitcher for Briarwood in the second game.
In the first game, Jonah Carroll earned the win. Carroll replaced Andrew Ponder in the second inning. The sophomore threw four scoreless frames while only allowing three hits. Sylacauga only had four hits for the game.
Cole Porch was the losing pitcher in the second game. Porch allowed two runs on three hits in five innings. He also walked a batter and hit another.
Senior Tyler Thompson was losing pitcher in Game 1. Thompson allowed five runs while striking out eight.
Bell and company will have the tough task of replacing eight seniors. Over the last two seasons, those seniors have a 44-16 record with an appearance in the quarterfinals and semifinals.
Bell said that over the last two seasons, he has developed a special bond with his seniors.
“Well, they are special,” Bell said. “Not just athletically. I don’t think that I have had a group that I have been closer to. It is going to be different not seeing these guys around here. This group is very near and dear to my heart.”