Briarwood semifinals bound

Published 2:09 am Thursday, May 7, 2009

Within moments of the final out in Wednesday’s 13-5 victory over Beauregard, the chant began, “We want St. Paul’s … We want St. Paul’s.”

Leading the cheers was a group of football players players who had their state championship hopes crushed by St. Paul’s in the 2007 Super Six. Now, some of the football players that were part of that state runner-up team have a shot to end St. Paul’s baseball season Saturday in Mobile.

“Some of us played in that game. It’s a feeling I haven’t forgot at all. We’ve been wanting a shot back at them forever. I’m real excited about getting to go down there,” said Brairwood senior ace Ben Bracewell, who played on defense in the title game. “But it’s the same as this last game. We can’t let any past emotions fuel us.”

Before Wednesday’s game, Bracewell and his teammates gathered at the clubhouse late into the night Tuesday discussing what needed to be done. The main goal was stay loose and bring the offense to life in their final game of the year at Jay D. Kynerd Field.

“They came out here with their mind set that it’s going to be an offensive day and they did it,” Briarwood head coach Lee Hall said.

Bracewell said he told his teammates all day Wednesday that they needed to score at least three runs in the first inning to jump on the Hornets. Catcher Debo Crew took care of that with one swing, hitting a grand slam for his second home run of the season and playoffs.

“I need to get as many as I could. I knew with bases loaded, I had to come through,” Crew said.

Bracewell followed with a two-run shot in the second and then Paul McKelvey had a solo blast in the third, his third home run in two days and fourth in the last four games after not having one all year. He’s just one example of how the Lions’ bats are coming alive through the lineup.

“Everybody thinks we’re a one-man team with Bracewell. He may be the best pitcher we’ve got, but one through nine, we can all swing the bat, and that’s something we’ve relied on this whole season,” he said.”

Brett Conner and Bracewell led the offense with two hits Wednesday, while Evan Simmons had only one at bat after being walked four times. Every position in the lineup either had a hit or reached base on a walk.

Sophomore Logan Crook picked up the win on the mound for the Lions, improving to 3-2 on the season and having a night that may be a building block for his career.

His main struggle came in the fifth inning, allowing back-to-back home runs and four runs before getting out of the inning.

“Tonight let me know I can pitch. I’ve had control problems all year, but I got over them today,” said Crook, who has struggled not to pitch off emotions this year. “Tonight was a big maturing process for me. It was a great win.”

After five innings, it was time to turn the game over to the one who has shined on Kynerd Field the past four years. As the Lions came off the field to bat in the top of the sixth, Bracewell walked straight to head coach Lee Hall and said, “I’m in.”

Bracewell faced four batters in the sixth, striking out three and fanned two more in the seventh to close out his home career. During the past four years, Bracewell has left his mark at Kynerd, breaking the single-season strikeout record for the Lions and passing 300 career strikeouts last weekend, pitching a no-hitter Tuesday and then tying Luke Furuto’s 2007 record of nine home runs hit in a season on Wednesday.

“It hasn’t set in that I’m not playing here anymore,” said Bracewell, who jumped into Crew’s arms after the win. “It’s been my home for five years … Praise be to God I got a chance to be out here, and it’s been so much fun.”

Briarwood (28-6) will play the first game of the Class 5A semifinal in Mobile at 5 p.m. Friday at St. Paul’s (31-4). Game two will be played Saturday, followed by game three, if necessary.