Lions earn Area 8 crown

Published 11:48 pm Monday, April 6, 2009

It didn’t matter how frigid the temperature was Monday night or how much previous rain saturated the diamond, the Class 5A, Area 8 champion still had to be settled – winner take all.

Ben Bracewell had never collected an area title during his career as a Briarwood Lion (19-4, 5-1). However, with a dominating 14-4 win over the Chelsea Hornets (15-12, 4-2), all is well.

The Mississippi State signee left his mark on the diamond going the distance on the mound with a career-high 16 strikeouts, while adding is fourth homer of the season and two additional stolen bases. There wasn’t much the senior didn’t do to help his team claim an area title.

“Winning an area championship was one of our goals at the beginning of the season,” Bracewell said. “Winning the area title was just another goal we wanted to accomplish. We worked real hard all year to get to this point.”

No matter the windchill, the Hornets set the tone early for the game with Blake Woo sitting the Lions down in order right out of the gate. An RBI single by Ben Craft tallied the early 1-0 lead for the Hornets when the first inning ended. It was Bracewell’s first earned run of the season.

After Bracewell struck out the side in the second, the Lions began to hit their groove.

A solo homer by Evan Simmons and consecutive RBI doubles by Logan Cook and Paul McKelvey led off the top half of the third for the Lions. Yet, the Hornets took advantage of a key outfield error that scored two while adding another run in the fourth to take the 4-3 lead.

Shortly thereafter, the Lions exploded with 11 runs in the final three innings highlighted with a monster two-run shot over the centerfield wall by Austin Lankford.

It was a goal the Lions had set early in the preseason. Monday night the swagger that the Lions accumulated all season earned them a championship. They just needed to “swing the bat.”

“The character of our team this year has always been to never give up because we know we have hit the ball well all season,” Lions Head Coach Lee Hall said. “I thought we got on our heels a little bit early in the game because they came out and swung the bat well against Ben.

“Chelsea came out and played extremely hard tonight; they came to win an area championship. We had to gather ourselves after the first inning, get refocused, and we just had to start swinging the bat. I am happy the way we responded.”

All is not lost with the Hornets as they are still postseason bound. They will travel to take on the Moody Blue Devils when the playoffs begin April 17. Briarwood will host the Sylacauga Aggies.

Both teams could meet up again in the second round. What a rematch it will be.

Chelsea was the home team Monday night at Briarwood’s field because of soggy conditions at its own field.