GISA STATE BASEBALL PREVIEW: Westwood faces off vs. familiar foe in Thomas Jefferson in Class A Elite 8

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

CAMILLA -- Jake Edore knows what this means, knows better than anyone on this team.

Edore has been around. He was there for the 2-15 season a year ago, and he was there two years ago when Westwood's baseball team went 1-14.

Ouch, that's right, 1-14.

So don't blame Edore if he enjoyed this season on the diamond a little more, and don't blame Edore if he wants one final run before this incredible year at Westwood ends.

"It wasn't good at all,'' Edore said of the two previous seasons. "A lot of games I didn't want to be there.''

There's no place he would rather be right now.

That's the feeling at Westwood, where the football team went unbeaten and won the GISA Class A state title in the fall and where last week the Westwood boys track team made it a clean sweep by winning the team state title. Westwood's girls won the state track title, too, and the Westwood girls also won the state team tennis title and played for the state basketball title.

It's been that kind of year for the Wildcats' sports programs.

There's one team left, and the baseball team begins its run at a state title at 3:30 p.m. on Friday in Louisville, where the Wildcats face one of their biggest rivals, Thomas Jefferson, in the Elite 8 round of the state playoffs.

Rivals? That word might not cover it. Consider this: Thomas Jefferson beat Westwood in the Sweet 16 of the state basketball playoffs in four overtimes, and then last week the state track title came down to the final event of the three day meet, the 4x400 relay.

Westwood secured first place and Thomas Jefferson had to settle for second, but the Thomas Jefferson coach argued that one of the Westwood runners threw the baton after the race, which would have disqualified Westwood, and given the team title to Thomas Jefferson.

After a long delay it was determined there was no infraction -- none at all.

The challenge didn't sit well with Westwood.

The Wildcat baseball team (14-4) wants to win a lot more than this weekend's best-of-three series. They want one more state title to close out the year.

"That would be great,'' said Edore, the only senior on the team. He started as a freshman when Westwood played for the state title, and then played for two young teams that were loaded with eighth- and ninth-graders. "It would be great to get back to the state title game we played in when I was a freshman -- only this time win it.''

That's the idea, and the Wildcats, who had a bye in the first round of the state playoffs, are hot. They've not only won five in a row, but they have outscored opponents, 50-14. They've been hot since a 2-2 start when Westwood came back from 7-2 deficit to beat Terrell Academy, 8-7.

"I think that was the turning point,'' said coach Al Timmerman, who has seen his team go 12-2 since then. They split with Region 1-A champ Crisp Academy, which was last year's state runner-up and is the favorite to win the title this season.

Beating Crisp in the last meeting gave Westwood the No. 2 seed in the region, and meant a lot to the Wildcats. There's no lack of confidence -- or arms.

"I think the four guys in our rotation are as good as any in Class A or Class AA,'' said Timmerman, whose team is anchored by four stars -- four kids who laugh and joke with each other and then destroy teams on the field.

The Westwood Foursome of Edore, Mason Worsham, Douglas Nobles and Caleb Morrell not only pitch but these kids also carry the big bats on the team. All four are hitting over .400 and they have combined to hit 19 home runs.

Nobles is the biggest bat. He has belted 10 homers, and Morrell has hit four. Both are relative newcomers to Westwood. Nobles came over this year from Baconton Charter and played with Worsham and Edore on the state title football team.

Morrell was the quarterback at Pelham last fall, but when his father, Jim Morrell, who was the football coach and athletic director at Pelham, left the school, Caleb enrolled at Westwood. It made sense.

Jim Morrell's best friend is Westwood football coach Ross Worsham.

"When he came here it was like he was the final piece to the puzzle,'' Nobles said. "We have everything we need to win. It was like we were short one guy and then Caleb came.''

Morrell, who plays shortstop and is 3-0 on the mound, couldn't be happier playing for Westwood.

"It's just different. It's different baseball, and I enjoy it more,'' said Morrell, a junior who joined Westwood after the third game of the season. "I felt like I was supposed to be here because it felt so good here.''

Worsham, who was the quarterback for the state champs, catches and pitches and sees the same kind of chemistry on this team.

"We're close, like family,'' said Worsham, who leads off and is 4-0 on the mound. "It was a little different in football because we were undefeated, but this team has confidence, too.

"This team has all the tools. It's got everything you need to be a champion, and when all that's clicking, we're pretty hard to beat.''

Mason's younger brother, Chason, is one of two eighth-graders who play for Westwood. He has moved to center field, where he has made two unbelievable catches in the last four games.

"He made two of the best catches I've ever seen,'' Timmerman said.

It's like Mason Worsham said: this team has all the tools.

The Wildcats have the ability to score a lot of runs and go deep at the plate and on the mound, where Timmerman feels confident in all four pitchers. What is remarkable is Westwood has only 12 players.

"We don't have a lot of guys,'' Timmerman said. "But we have guys who do a lot.''

Nobles will start the opener Friday, but Timmerman is undecided about Saturday. If the series is tied at 1-1, a second game will be played on Saturday.

"You can only use a pitcher for 10 innings in a three-game series,'' Timmerman said of the state rule on pitchers. "That could help us. We've got 40 innings. That could be an advantage.''

And everybody is eager to get on the field.

"We're hungry,'' Edore said.

Hungry for one more state title run, hungry to finish the year the way they started it.

"We're ready,'' Nobles said. "We want to top off a great year, and go out with a bang.''