On senior night at Gardendale, the Rockets opted to scrap their normal lineup and field only seniors against Briarwood Christian.
Gardendale threw four different pitchers at their visitors, all upperclassmen, but the Lions patiently worked their way to a 12-3 victory.
The combo of Chase Graveman, Reed Elkins, Joseph Calvert and Mason Gooch combined for 13 walks and two hit batsmen.
“I think we walked 13 and hit two, so it’s amazing it was as close as it was to be honest with you,” said Gardendale coach Pat Keedy.
Briarwood busted the game open in the first inning when they punished the alternative Rocket roster with five runs. Two walks, an error and a Chandler Wilkins two-run double put the Lions out in front for good.
“We obviously struggled on the mound, but we wanted to get some guys out there and throw a couple innings to get us ready for [the playoffs],” said Keedy.
The Rockets threatened in the bottom half of the first with the bases loaded and no outs, but were unable to find the timely hit they needed. Shortstop Chris Blakey scored on an error before Seth Alford drove in Bryce Jay, who scored two of their three runs. But they stranded two runners in the inning.
Gardendale consistently smothered their 5A challengers in threatening situations. They stranded 14 Lions on base for the night and ended two Briarwood innings with the bases loaded.
The Lions put five different arms on the mound; each was threatened, but none caved in to allow a big inning. Briarwood, which is playoff bound, stranded nine Rockets on base including two in the seventh.
Gardendale designated hitter Hunter Crook went 2-for-3 at the plate with one walk, as did Jay.
Briarwood’s leadoff hitter, Brayden Housel, went 3-for-3 at the dish with two walks. Eight-hole hitter Alex Patillo went 2-for-4 with a seventh inning RBI double.
The Rockets will now look to rebound in a makeup game on Monday at Clay-Chalkville, before traveling to Vestavia Hills for the first round of the state playoffs on Friday.
“We’re going to have a great week of practice, get ready to play and go over there and win two games,” said Keedy of the upcoming playoff series with the Rebels.