Brantley claims 1A Baseball State Runner-up

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

Brantley High School baseball team’s storybook season came to a close on May 16 at the Alabama High School Athletic Association 1A State Baseball Championship series at Jacksonville State University. The Bulldogs claimed the runner-up title, but ceded the championship with a heartbreaking, 11-10, loss to Appalachian High School (AHS) in the final series game.

Brantley head coach Austin Brook emphasized that the Bulldog’s achievement, reaching the playoffs, was commendable.
“I’m extremely proud of the players,” said Brook. “They faced numerous challenges early on, but they found their rhythm in the middle of the season.”

Brantley had a total of nine hits in the game. Tyson Grant delivered a crucial two-run double in the first inning, contributing to Brantley’s early three-run lead. The Bulldogs added two more runs in the second inning, with pitcher Jayden Parks hitting a triple to drive in one run, and then stealing home to extend Brantley’s lead to 5-0.

Brantley managed to add two runs in the fourth inning, building a 7-3 lead. They then scored one run in the fifth and two more in the sixth. Jayden Parks, Jordan Parks, and Kendrick Welch each contributed two hits for Brantley. Jordan Parks also drove in two runs, while Tyson Grant finished the game with two RBIs.

Despite a commanding 10-3 lead, Brantley couldn’t hold off the Eagles, who staged a stunning comeback by scoring eight runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. AHS’s Logan Harvey rallied the Eagles when he stole second after being hit by a pitch on a 3-2 count, and scored on Cole Gargus’ RBI single, narrowing the gap to 10-4 in favor of Brantley. Talan Shirley, 1A state championship series MVP, contributed with a single, bringing home his second run of the game.

Brook made a pitching change, but Reese Odom hit the next two batters. Another pitching change was made by the Bulldogs, bringing in senior Jordan Parks. The Eagles’ center fielder, Garrett Helms, then singled in two runs, further reducing Brantley’s lead to 10-8.
This set the stage for the Eagle’s Caden Jones’ game-tying triple, followed by the winning run scored on a two-out hit by Chris Heekin, who also earned the win as the pitcher.

The pivotal moment occurred in the seventh inning when Jones delivered a crucial hit, driving in two runs and tying the game at 10-10. He then scored the winning run on a two-out hit, sealing the remarkable comeback for the Eagles.

The final score was 11-10 in favor of the Eagles, securing the team’s first-ever state championship with a 2-0 victory.

Brooks said the Bulldogs played hard throughout the game.

“Once they gained momentum, they never stopped believing,” Brook said. “The best part is that these kids, especially the seniors, got to extend their baseball journey by an extra month.”

“Three seniors, Jordan Parks, and Kaleb Weed, played a significant role not only through their leadership but also by showcasing their skills on the field,” Brook said. “Jayden Parks stood out as the team’s top pitcher and also had the highest batting average, particularly excelling in the state championship series. Cooper Layton displayed remarkable strength on the mound throughout the playoffs and all players gave it their all, displaying a quality example of teamwork.”

Weed said he would have been overjoyed to have been part of a championship-winning team his senior year, but he also noted that he will forever be thankful for the added time with his teammates and the priceless memories made.

“An extra month of playing baseball my senior year is something I am very thankful for,” Weed said. “I was blessed to be able to play those extra games with some of the people I’ve played with my entire life and even though we didn’t bring back a blue map we got to go compete for one and that’s not something everyone gets a chance to do.”

According to Weed, Coach Brook was a constant positive influence that helped him develop what he was able to bring to the table during the championship. He also said that Assistant Coach Andre Parks is a big part of who he is as a player as a person.

“Coach Brook was always there any time I needed him and always very willing to help,” Weed said “Coach Parks has been helping me along since I was nine, so he is also a big part of who I am today, and not just as an athlete.”