- Special Sections
- Public Notices
The supply ran dry of miracle comebacks, and West Brunswick finished its baseball season two games short of the state-championship title bout.
D. H. Conley nipped the Trojans 2-1 Friday night in the third round of the 3A state playoffs.
West Brunswick had become known for its late-inning heroics, particularly in the conference-championship game and second-round state playoff duel. But Friday night, a drought of hits and a trio of mental miscues proved too much to overcome.
“D.H. Conley threw a lot of change-ups, and they hit their spots with them,” West coach Mike Alderson said. “I don’t think we hit the ball hard all night except for that one in the right-field corner. Their pitchers shut us down.”
West managed just five hits, and the only time they were back-to-back, the Trojans scored.
Clean-up hitter Josh Powell doubled to the right-field corner, and Joey Granados followed suit with a double next to the right-field line to tie the game at 1-1 in the fourth inning.
In the fifth, Trojan Ryan Hill hit a ball that bounced high over the pitcher’s head, and the speedster beat it out for a single. In his previous at-bat, Hill had singled and stolen second.
So the Vikings immediately brought in their ace pitcher Chase Hardee, who made his pickoff move to first, but Hill got back in time. Without going through his normal, sluggish routine on the mound, Hardee snapped the ball right back, and first baseman Trey Styons tagged out Hill standing up next to him.
“We knew the kid was going,” Conley coach Jason Mills said. “He has major-league speed, they had their best two hitters (Pat and Wally Kamfolt) coming up, and we knew we were just going to keep throwing over there. We saw him (Hill) on the first one kind of time us.”
So Hardee sped up that timing for the pickoff.
Asked the effect, Alderson said, “It took the momentum from us.”
The other mental miscues came in the sixth inning. Conley leadoff man Alex Griffin led off with a line drive to left field for a single. Styons bunted down the third-base line, and Trojan third baseman Evan Ponds made a great pickup and throw to get him out at first.
“They left third base unoccupied, and my runner (Griffin) made a heads-up play and broke for third,” Mills said.
Two West players raced to get to the uncovered third base, and the Trojan first baseman threw to third during the chaos. The ball glanced off one of the West player’s gloves and rolled to the side fence while Griffin lumbered home.
So he went from first base to home plate on a sacrifice bunt.
“I hate to win one like that, but we’re not going to give it back,” Mills said.
Alderson said, “It’s a play we work on all the time. That play’s big, but if we swing the bats tonight, that one play doesn’t matter.”
Though disappointed in the team’s hits, Alderson was especially pleased with starting pitcher Brock Holmes.
“I was hoping he’d give us three innings, and he gave us five, and he probably could have kept going,” Alderson said. “Brock was a good surprise. He did a great job and gave us more than expected.”
Holmes, a junior, gave up just one run, in the third when Griffin tripled and Styons drove him in for the team from Greenville.
The Vikings had only five hits in the game. Holmes’ slider was particularly effective.
“I feel bad for the seniors,” Holmes said. “Playing with them was what I loved.
“We’re family. We started off kind of rough, but the team chemistry got better, and we worked as a team.”
Like the West fans filling the bleachers, in lawn chairs down the right-field line fence and on the backs of pick-up trucks behind the left-field fence, Holmes also expected the Trojans to make a late rally.
“All year, we got behind, and we came back,” he said.
Hardee, who pitched all seven innings in the second-round win Tuesday night and two and two-thirds innings Friday night, got the win for Conley, 17-9. Ethan Cox, who relieved Holmes in the sixth, took the loss.
“We knew West Brunswick was going to be the best team we were going to face this year,” Mills said. “We had heard about them.
“Our No. 2 (James Will) went out there and changed speeds enough to keep them off-balance. Then we brought Chase in there to end the game.”
West loses six seniors off this year’s team, including its prolific pitchers Cox and Aaron Evans, third baseman Ponds, left fielder Joey Granados, infielder Zack Spivey and right fielder Seth Roberts.
“It’s been a joy for four years,” Alderson said about his seniors. “They’ve won a lot of ballgames for us.
“We had three goals when we started the season: to win the conference, to win 20 games and to win the state championship. So we got two of them.”
West finishes the season 20-7.
The veteran coach was pleased by the huge crowds for the Mideastern 3A/4A Conference champions’ playoff games, both from the public and from West alumni.
“It shows the community support behind the baseball program,” Alderson said with a smile. “And a lot of the ’04 (state-championship baseball) squad were here pulling for us.”
C 001 001 0—2 5 0
WB 000 100 0—1 5 1
WP: Chase Hardee LP: Ethan Cox
Leading hitters: C—Alex Griffin 3-for-3 (3B), Trey Styons 1-for-2 (RBI). WB—Ryan Hill 2-for-3, Josh Powell 1-for-3 (2B), Joey Granados 1-for-3 (2B), Wally Kamfolt 1-for-3.