Florala punches ticket to semis with quarterfinal sweep of Brantley

Published 11:00 am Saturday, May 4, 2024

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Florala advanced to the state semi-finals for the first time since 2005 and dispatched Brantley, 6-2 and 2-0, in the quarterfinal round of the 1A state baseball playoffs on Thursday, May 2.

The Wildcats broke a school record for the most wins in a season and improved to 24-1. The Bulldogs ended the year at 18-7.

Game 1: Florala 6, Brantley 2
Jayden Parks led off the game with a walk and advanced to second and third on two wild pitches. Brantley struck first when Cooper Layton laid down a bunt and drove home Parks. Cody Walsh ended the frame with a strikeout and reached on a one-out error in the bottom of the first. Easton Walsh followed with a single before C. Walsh was picked off at second. Noah Bryan and Jacob Laura walked and loaded the bases with two outs. Ayden Brooks was then hit by a pitch, but Florala settled for the 1-1 tie after one inning.

Jon Harper Kilcrease was hit by a pitch in the top of the second, but C. Walsh struck out two Bulldogs. Dalton Jackson and C. Walsh drew two-out free passes in the home half before E. Walsh slashed an RBI double. Courtesy runner Greyson West and C. Walsh scored and gave the Wildcats a 3-1 lead at the end of two.

Neither side scored in the third inning. C. Walsh retired the side in order on eight pitches in the visiting fourth. Rayshon Coleman reached on a force play and stole second before C. Walsh was hit by a pitch. E. Walsh followed with an RBI single and scored Coleman for a 4-1 lead after four innings.

Chaz Branum drew a one-out walk in the fifth, but C. Walsh struck out two and Jackson threw out Branum attempting to steal second. Laura opened the bottom half with a double down the third base line as Layton fought back and recorded the next three outs.

Kevin Freeman reached on a leadoff walk in the sixth. Thomas Williamson cut the deficit to 4-2 on an RBI double that scored pinch runner Kendrick Welch. Williamson was then tagged out at second, and C. Walsh ended the frame with a strikeout. Following a pitching change, Jackson delivered a one-out single. West moved to third on a double by C. Walsh before Brantley intentionally walked E. Walsh. Bryan gave Florala some insurance with a clutch two-run single past a drawn-in infield. Colton Searcy retired the final two batters of the inning and kept the score 6-2 after six innings.

C. Walsh brought the heat with three strikeouts on 12 pitches in the top of the seventh.

E. Walsh finished 3-for-3 with three RBIs and a run. Jackson, Bryan, and Laura each went 1-for-3. C. Walsh was 1-for-2 at the plate for the Wildcats and allowed two runs on one hit with 13 strikeouts for the complete-game win. Williamson paced the Bulldogs with a 1-for-3 showing.

Game 2: Florala 2, Brantley 0
E. Walsh reached on a two-out miscue but was picked off in the top of the first inning. Parks singled to right and advanced to second on a catcher’s interference. Both runners moved up on a passed ball, but E. Walsh ended the threat with a strikeout and kept the game scoreless after one.

Parks retired the side in order on just nine pitches in the second. Branum reached on an error before A.J. Kilpatrick singled and put runners at the corners. E. Walsh caught Parks looking at strike three and sent the game to the third inning.

Kaden Cantrell walked with one out in the third and moved to second on a groundout, but a strikeout closed the frame. Williamson earned a leadoff free pass but was caught stealing second as the contest remained scoreless.

C. Walsh opened the fourth with a double, and E. Walsh was intentionally walked. Bryan also walked and loaded the bases with nobody out. Laura rolled into a force play, but the Walsh brothers came home and gave Florala a 2-0 lead. E. Walsh struck out two and held Brantley in check as the score stayed 2-0 with four innings in the books.

Cantrell walked with one out in the top of the fifth, while Coleman singled to center. Cantrell was picked off at second before a groundout ended the inning. Freeman took a leadoff walk in the bottom half and was replaced by pinch runner Tyler Carter. E. Walsh notched two more strikeouts as Carter was caught stealing.

C. Walsh led off the top of the sixth with a single to left and took second on an error. Parks was not fazed and retired the next three Wildcats. Williamson reached on a miscue in the bottom half, but the Bulldogs could not solve E. Walsh and trailed 2-0 after six.

Cantrell was hit by a pitch with two outs in the seventh but was unable to advance. C. Walsh took over on the mound and worked a 1-2-3 frame for the win.

C. Walsh finished 2-for-3 with a run and earned the save for Florala, while Coleman was 1-for-3. E. Walsh gave up two hits and tallied 13 strikeouts in six innings for the win. Kilpatrick went 1-for-2, and Parks was 1-for-3 for Brantley.

The Wildcats will travel to Sweet Water (20-14) in the semi-final round next week.