Randolph County’s first experience at the semifinal level of the postseason started poorly for the Tigers then got worse. Home standing Westbrook Christian scored four times in the bottom of the first inning in the first game of the Class 2A best-of-three series and eventually won 19-0 in five innings. In the nightcap, the Tigers (27-8) batted as the home team but the change didn’t help as the Warriors won 15-1 in six frames.
When it was over, Randolph County head coach Pat Prestridge was quick to praise Westbrook Christian.
“They’re just an awesome team,” Prestridge said. “They’re solid at every position. They hit the ball well from top to bottom. We just struggled at the plate a little bit today, just couldn’t get anything together.”
After going down in order in the first in Game 1, the Tigers had runners on third and first with no one out in the second when Skyler Williamson singled down the right field line. The next two hitters took called third strikes and Williamson was thrown out attempting to steal second base for the second out of the inning.
Westbrook added a single run in the second. In the third, 10 Warriors batted and six scored.
Senior shortstop Brad Benefield, a bright spot for Randolph County at the plate, doubled to start the fourth but never got closer to scoring. In the home half of the fourth, Westbrook added eight runs on seven hits, including a three-run home run by No. 5 hitter Matthew Reaves and a two-run shot off the bat of No. 9 batter Clay Templeton. Randolph County got a pinch-hit infield single by Josh Smith in the top of the fifth and then it was over. Freshman Levi Scarbary pitched the first three innings and took the loss.
“I think we sort of hung our heads a little bit at the beginning in the first game when they jumped on us. We just got frustrated a little bit,” Prestridge said. “Adversity hits everybody. … We’ve got to learn how to battle back and fight through that.”
Another freshman, Danny Simpson, started Game 2 for the Tigers and kept it close for four innings. It would have been even closer had Reaves not continued to swing a hot bat for Westbrook. In the top of the first, the third baseman’s two-out triple to center put his team up 2-0. The Tigers got two-out singles by Benefield and catcher Lance Daniel in the bottom of the first but the inning ended on a fly to center that Prestridge briefly argued, to no avail, was not caught.
Simpson cruised through a 1-2-3 second inning. Randolph County’s Levi Phillips got a one-out opposite field base to left field and Smith’s sacrifice bunt moved him up 90 feet but the inning ended on a ground ball to shortstop.
In the third, Simpson walked the first two hitters but almost wiggled out of trouble with a strikeout and a weak pop out to first base. Then Reaves appeared at the plate again and smashed a three-run homer. In the fourth, Simpson got his fourth and fifth strikeouts and a fly ball out to center and his night was done.
Randolph County loaded the bases with two down in the home third on base hits by Scarbary and Benefield and a Warrior error but didn’t score. Benefield got his third single of the game in the fifth but Westbrook had plated four runs in the top of the fifth against freshman J.R. Roundtree. Three walks and a hit batter plagued Roundtree in the fifth. Roundtree got the first two outs in the sixth on routine fly balls before Westbrook struck for six more runs to make it 15-0.
Prestridge said the three freshmen had thrown the majority of the Tigers’ games this season and pitched the team to the semifinals.
“I’ve had a lot of folks tell me that with ninth-graders you shouldn’t be here anyway,” Prestirdge said.
The Tigers’ lone run came in the sixth. Williamson reached first then second on the same throwing error. A ground ball moved him to third and he came home on Phillips’ RBI ground out.
“I’m proud of each one of them,” Prestridge said of his players. “They did a great job. Randolph County’s never been this far before, to make the top four. There’s a lot of great teams sitting at home today that didn’t play today.”
Westbrook Christian (25-13) advances to the 2A championship series against G.W. Long of Skipperville (30-8).