Class AAA Baseball: Westminster sweeps past Blessed Trinity, 2-1 and 7-6
Westminster won its first game during this season’s Class AAA playoff run, 7-6 over Pierce County. The Wildcats ended their season with another 7-6 win, this one in Game 2 of the championship final against Blessed Trinity, to give the Wildcat program its third state title in baseball, but its first since 1975.
Westminster swept its way through the state tournament. But while its margin of victory in wins over Pierce County, Jefferson, Westside-Augusta and Cedartown was six runs per game, the Wildcats had to gut out two, one-run ballgames in knocking out the two-time state champion Titans.
Westminster won Game 1, 2-1, as senior Blake Huber hammered a solo homer to left in the top of the fourth to break a 1-1 tie, and fellow seniors Kenneth Hartzfeld and Rankin Woley made it stand up. Hartzfeld and Woley held the Titans’ potent lineup to just one run on seven hits.
Blessed Trinity entered the series with a record of 33-2. Two of those wins came against Westminster in the regular season – 15-1 and 9-3.
“Blessed Trinity is a great program. Coach (Andy) Harlin and those guys do a great job,” Westminster head coach Russell Wrenn said. “But our guys knew we were playing great baseball and I knew they would battle.”
For Blessed Trinity, one of its two losses was a 2-1 decision in eight innings in Game 2 of the semifinals against Jackson County. But while the Titans were able to come back and take Game 3 of that series (9-1), it wasn’t meant to be against region rival Westminster.
“I just told our guys, that that is how baseball goes,” Harlin said afterward. “Sometimes things go your way, sometimes they don’t. But I tip my hat to (Coach) Russell (Wrenn) and Westminster. He and his coaches do a great job of coaching their guys up, and Rankin Woley is just a great competitor.”
Indeed the senior was huge for Westminster, picking up the save in both games. To close out the clincher, Woley got the first two outs quickly in the top of the seventh. But Blessed Trinity loaded the bases with two singles and a walk. Wrenn made a visit to the mound, but Woley – the team’s closer all season – knew he wasn’t about to get the hook.
“I knew coach had confidence in me. There was never a doubt,” said Woley, who will play at LSU next season. “He just gave me a chance to catch my breath so I could lock in.”
After the visit, Woley’s first pitch to senior cleanup hitter Conner Davis was a strike. On the next pitch Davis tapped into a fielder’s choice at home plate, and the celebration was on for Westminster, which scored three runs in the bottom of the fifth to take a 7-5 lead. The charge was led by senior Armaan Painter and sophomore Peter York, who has RBI singles in the frame. Senior Shota Yasuda, who has two hits in Game 2, scored the eventual winning run on a walk.
“We have 11 seniors and they were the strongest part of our team,” Wrenn said, taking in the celebration. “To see all this, first (championship) since 1975, it’s just unbelievable.”
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