Westbrook Christian held Ranburne to nine innings of scoreless baseball Tuesday then fought off a rally in the Bulldogs’ final at-bat to clinch their best-of-three quarterfinal series. The Warrirors won 5-2 in Game 3 after finishing off an 11-0 victory in five innings in Game 2.
Game 2 was called because of rain Friday, with Westbook Christian leading 5-0 after two complete innings. Rain again forced postponement Monday.
The Warriors (23-13) will host to Randolph County in the 2A semifinals starting Friday. The Bulldogs, who won 8-3 in Game 1 on Friday, finished 24-8 and with a bad taste in their mouths.
“The (umpiring) crew, even in the game we won, they did a bad job,” Ranburne coach Chad Young said. “It was just bad.
“That’s part of it. Teams play bad sometimes, and crews play bad sometimes. It wasn’t on purpose, but it’s tough when you get to the final eight (quarterfinals) and things like that happen.”
Ranburne’s two runs Tuesday came in the Bulldogs’ final at-bat, the first on Mark Smith’s one-out single to plate Spencer Gibbs from second base.
After a walk to Bradley Gibbs loaded the bases, Jared Edwards came to the plate representing the potential tying run. He hit into a fielder’s choice, scoring Kyle Lovvorn from third base as Westbook Christian forced Bradley Gibbs at second base.
Umpires ruled that Bradley Gibbs came into second base too high, preventing an attempt at a double play. The runner-interference call resulted in the third out and Ranburne’s final out of the season.
After a brief, uncertain pause in the action, Westbrook Christian players started to celebrate.
Runner interference was a “bullcrap call,” Young said. Bradley Gibbs, a senior, said he wasn’t sure.
“There’s what you can do and what you can’t,” he said. “There’s kind of a thin line in what you can and can’t, I guess.”
Westbrook Christian coach Matt Kennedy saw it differently.
“Definitely, the guy was standing up when he went in, to me,” he said. “I hate the game ended like that for them, but that’s not my call. That’s just how it goes sometimes.”
The final play wasn’t the only controversy.
With no outs and Edwards having walked to lead off the Ranburne sixth, Clayton Young hit a ball to deep right-center field. Westbrook Christian center fielder Jake Kilgo went to the ground to make what appeared to be a spectacular catch at the fence, but uncertainty ensued.
Edwards, already more than halfway to second base, turned back toward first then turned around again. After a long back-and-forth between Chad Young and umpires, Edwards was on second, and Clayton Young was out.
“One (umpire) said he (Kilgo) caught it, and one said he dropped it,” Chad Young said. “We had one calling safe and one calling out, and they went with the out.
“He dropped the ball and went over there and picked it up. It was obvious. It was a diving catch, and the ball is four or five feet from him.”
Like Bradley Gibbs about the game’s final play, Kennedy wasn’t sure after Kilgo’s catch.
“I asked the umpires what the call was, and I think one of them had a catch,” Kennedy said. “I think the guy on the first-base line called it a catch, and this guy, I don’t know if he called it anything.”
The Warriors were in the third-base dugout, the farthest dugout from the play.
“I couldn’t see anyway, obviously that far out there,” Kennedy said. “I don’t know if we caught it. I know Jake made a great play out there in center field.
“Whether he caught it or not, that guy (the first-base umpire) had a better line of sight than I did. As you get older, your vision goes.”
Westbrook Christian dominated the action, right up until the final controversies. The Warriors got plenty of offense, including Jonathan Ford’s two-run single in the fifth inning of Game 2 and home runs by Matthew Reaves and Jordan McCartney in Game 3.
Westbrook Christian also held Ranburne to 10 hits for the final two games of the series, including three in Game 2.
“Our pitching staff has been really solid all year,” Kennedy said. “We’ve kind of lived by pitching and defense all year, and the guys understand that, and that’s our philosophy this year. We’ve had good pitching performances all year long.
“Jake did a real good job going out in the second game after Blaine (Beaird) finished up the first game. I think Blaine did an excellent job.”
Lovvorn and Smith had two hits apiece in Game 3.
“We were hitting it good. We were just hitting it right at somebody,” Edwards said.“They were making their plays. They played perfect, and we played average.”
Sports columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576, firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @jmedley_star.