HEADLAND – It’s time to add yet another championship banner to Douglas Park.
Host team Headland won its fourth straight Dixie Youth Baseball Division I Majors (12-under) state baseball title by earning a 7-4 extra-inning win over Gordo on Sunday afternoon.
It marked the sixth state championship in the last seven years for Headland, which now advances to the World Series in Ruston, La., beginning Aug. 3.
Headland won its first two games of the tournament in easy fashion – 10-0 over Russell County on Thursday and 17-3 over Gordo on Saturday – but found itself in a real battle during a rematch with Gordo for the championship.
With the teams tied at 1-1 following the regulation six innings, Headland scored three in the top of the seventh to lead 4-1 before Gordo rallied in the bottom of the inning, with the big blow being a two-out, two-run homer off the bat of Ridge Elmore to tie it back up.
Two innings later for Headland, Logan Ivey led off with a double and Bryant Bush followed with a line drive double to deep left field to put the local team back on top at 5-4. Headland added two insurance runs in the inning, one coming in on a wild pitch and the other on a ground out off the bat of Mason Edwards that brought in Heath Mathison, who had reached third on a wild pitch.
Collin Phillips, who entered on the mound in relief in the seventh inning after Gordo had tied the game, got the win. In the bottom of the ninth, Phillips walked the leadoff batter, but then got a force out at second, a fly out to center field and a ground out to second to end the game.
“It’s a great group of baseball players, good kids, unselfish kids,” Headland coach Carl Bush said. “They just wouldn’t quit. I wouldn’t trade any one of them for any player in the state of Alabama.”
The game was a pitching duel for the first six innings between Headland starter Trey Scott and Gordo starter Brady Jones. Both teams also made some terrific plays defensively.
Gordo scored first in the bottom of the fourth when Andrew White singled in Jones for a 1-0 lead. Earlier in the inning, a Gordo player was called out at the plate on a close play after the Headland catcher made a nice block and applied the tag.
Headland responded in the top of the fifth when Taylor Bower blooped a single into left field to score Edwards and tie the game at 1-1. Carter Sanders, who had doubled on the previous at bat, was thrown out at the plate trying to score on the hit by Bower.
Going to the seventh, Gordo had to bring in a new pitcher – Mason Rice – after Jones had reached the pitch limit for the game.
Edwards broke the tie with a two-out, two-run single to left field with the bases loaded to bring in Scott and Mathison. Waylon McGriff would score on a wild pitch with Bower at the plate to make it 4-1.
But Gordo battled back to pull within 4-2 on an RBI single by Cole Livingston and then tied it on the two-out homer by Elmore two batters later.
“Late in the game when we went down 1-0, it’s the first time this team had trailed in weeks,” Bush said. “I told them we were going to find out (what kind of players they were). I couldn’t be prouder of them. I love every one of them.”