0

Westwood baseball team continues march to state title today in Final Four

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

CAMILLA -- The kids from Westwood won't need a GPS to find Memorial Day in Savannah today.

They know the way, and they know just how good the ride home can feel, too.

The football team had to travel to Savannah to play Memorial Day for the GISA Class A state championship in November, and nothing felt better than winning that title and floating home to Camilla, where they were greeted by a police escort.

No police escort this time, and not even a state title on the line, but Westwood's baseball team will play its biggest series of the season when the Wildcats face Memorial Day in the Final Four in a three-game series beginning today at 4 p.m. The series continues at 11 a.m. Friday.

This time, Westwood will be the favorite.

"They were underdogs in football, and I guess people will say we are the favorites in baseball," Westwood baseball coach Al Timmerman said after practice Wednesday. "We have talked a lot about not being complacent. We can't afford to be overconfident or complacent.''

Still, Westwood saw the scores of last week's Elite 8 round games when Memorial had to struggle to beat Georgia Christian in a close three-game series. Memorial won the first game, 6-3, lost the second game, 13-12, and then won the series, 10-9, when a batter was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh in Game 3.

Westwood beat Georgia Christian twice this season in five innings by the 10-run mercy rule, winning 18-0 and 11-1.

Those numbers don't lie, but no one at Westwood is thinking it will be a cakewalk.

"We're not going into this game thinking it will be easy just because we beat Georgia Christian,'' said Caleb Morrell, who pitches and plays shortstop for Westwood.

Morrell is one of Westwood's Big 4. He's hitting .435, and he's 4-0 on the mound, including a playoff win against Thomas Jefferson last week.

Jake Edore, the team's only senior, is hitting .421, and he's 2-0 on the mound. Mason Worsham, who pitches and catches, is batting .446 and is 4-0 on the mound. Then there's Douglas Nobles, who leads the team in hitting with a .482 average and leads all of Southwest Georgia in home runs with 10.

Nobles is also 5-3 on the mound after pitching a masterpiece to beat Thomas Jefferson, 10-1, last week in the playoffs. Nobles went the distance and gave up just two hits. He didn't walk anyone and had nine strikeouts.

He knows why Westwood is playing so well right now.

"Confidence,'' he said. "We're playing with a lot of confidence right now.''

That showed in Game 2 last week at Thomas Jefferson, where Westwood fell behind 4-0 in the fifth.

"Heads were not down in the dugout, and no one was talking about giving up or talking about how we could get them in Game 3,'' Timmerman said. "Nobody got down. They believed we could come back and win, and they stepped up and we got a five-run inning in the fifth.''

That was enough for Morrell, who gave up only one hit after the fourth inning, as Westwood won, 5-4.

"We didn't hang our heads, because we don't look at losing as an option,'' Worsham said.

They haven't lost in a while. The Wildcats (16-4) are on a seven-game winning streak and need just four wins to capture another state title. The boys have already won state titles in football and track & field, and the girls were state runner-ups in basketball before running away with the state track title two weeks ago.

It's been that kind of year.

"I don't think beating them in football has anything to do with this,'' Edore said. "It doesn't matter. It's two different teams, two different seasons.''

Edore, Nobles, Worsham and others played on the state title football team, but the kids on the diamond have made this their season, and they have stepped up in the playoffs.

"We're reaching our peak at the right time,'' Edore said.

It's been contagious.

"The bottom of the lineup has picked up and we're getting hits from 1 through 9 in our lineup,'' Nobles said.

Edore said he felt the difference right now is that Westwood, which has just 12 players, including two eighth-graders, has grown up during the season.

"I think during the season our young guys got a lot of experience and that's helping right now,'' Edore said.

And everyone is pushing harder every day.

"We have picked up the intensity in practice,'' Worsham said. "We have more to play for and you see that in practice. The playoff atmosphere makes you pick up the intensity.''

That attitude has helped because Westwood hasn't had a home game in the playoffs. The Wildcats had a bye in the first round, then traveled to Louisville to play Thomas Jefferson in the Elite 8, and will be on the road again today. If they win, they will have to go on the road for the championship series if Crisp Academy beats Randolph Southern in the other series.

Crisp won the Region 1-A title, Westwood was second and Randolph Southern was fourth in the region, and now three teams from Southwest Georgia's region are in the Final Four.

Westwood split with Crisp and Randolph Southern in the regular season, but the Wildcats won the second game against both teams, which might give Westwood a little more confidence if the Wildcats get to the title game.

Nothing matters now to Westwood, except winning it all.

"We'll go wherever we have to go,'' Timmerman said. "We're headed that way. I don't think playing on the road affects us.''

Timmerman saw what he needed to see off the field last week.

The Westwood kids spent the night at a hotel in Louisville, and one of the parents relayed a message to Timmerman that people were talking about his team.

"She said they said they couldn't believe a high school baseball team was staying at the hotel because they were so quiet and they never heard them,'' Timmerman said. "They are that focused. They're taking it seriously.''

They know where they're going -- no GPS needed.