Lions win area championship, headed to playoffs

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

It’s been known the entire season that the Briarwood Lions were the best baseball team in Class 5A Area 8, but this week they made it official by finishing area play a perfect 6-0 with two wins over Shelby County to take home the 2017 area championship and clinch a spot in the postseason.

Briarwood took down Shelby County by a combined 23-0 in their two games as they have now scored 10-plus runs in four of their last six games to continue to show why they are considered to be the best team in the 5A classification. The Lions moved to 22-3 overall after the sweep of the Wildcats.

They didn’t just win the area championship by winning six games, they won it by dominating all of their area opponents not giving up a single run and scoring 10-plus runs in five of the six wins. They outscored, Sylacauga, Moody and Shelby County 64-0.

Game 1: Briarwood 13 – Shelby County 0

The offense and defense were both clicking in game one as the Lions went off for 11 hits and 13 runs in the game, while three pitchers combined to allow four hits, no runs and seven strikeouts on their way to a 13-0 rout.

Briarwood exploded for five runs in the top of the third thanks in large part to a double from Sam Hamner that brought in two of the five runs. From the second inning on, the Lions scored at least one run in every inning the remainder of the game, going off for four more in the bottom of the sixth.

Michael Hirs led the way at the plate going 2-2 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Gabe Russell also had a nice game offensively going 2-4 with one RBI and two runs scored. Hamner gave Briarwood its third multi-hit player as he went 2-3 with two RBIs and one run scored.

Game 2: Briarwood 10 – Shelby County 0

Game two of the series not only marked their area finale, but also a momentous night for several of the Lions’ players as the seniors got to celebrate senior night with a 10-0 win.

It marked the last regular-season home game for seven seniors, Will Shepherd, Graham Core, Cole Steadman, Caleb Daniels, Logan Whittlessey, Kolby Kwarcinsky, Sam Strickland and Will Buambach

Yet again, the offense was phenomenal, but it was the pitching staff that stole the show as Noah Whatley, Hudson Hartsfield and senior Daniels combined to allow just one hit, three walks, no runs and six strikeouts in the contest.

In a shortened six-inning game, the Lions scored in every inning, putting up two runs in all but the second and fourth innings where they were still able to scratch out a run apiece.

Strickland had a strong performance at the plate going 2-3 with one RBI and three runs scored. Hartsfield also had a two-hit game going 2-4 with one RBI and one run scored. J.R. Tran-Reno and Steadman led Briarwood with a game-high two RBIs apiece.

Four of the eight seniors picked up a hit in the game, while Daniels closed out the game on the mound.