SMITHS STATION — It played out like a storybook tale for Glenwood’s baseball team.
In both schools’ last season in the AISA, Glenwood defeated Lee-Scott Academy in three games to win the AISA 3A State Championship for the second year in a row. It was Glenwood’s 24th state title in program history, and it was head coach Tim Fanning’s 10th in his 21st year as the Gators’ coach.
“It was hard fought — very stressful,” Fanning said. “I’ve played in 12 state championships in baseball and never faced [Lee-Scott]. It was pretty fitting because we played them [for the championship] in just about everything else; just the way it was supposed to be, right?”
Glenwood had the last laugh, but the two Lee County rivals both had its own share of time atop the AISA in recent years. They will both embark on a new journey now in the AHSAA, but first, both programs would be justified in reflecting on their respective successes. The past several years in AISA 3A have been like two twin brothers jabbing back and forth at one another.
Lee-Scott has beaten Glenwood in the state championship in football the past two years, Glenwood beat Lee-Scott in the 2023 boys basketball title game, Glenwood beat Lee-Scott in the second round of the 2023 playoffs and then won state, Lee-Scott won the 2024 basketball state championship and now Glenwood rides into the sunset of its AISA era as back-to-back state champs in baseball by defeating its rival.
This time, the Gators took a decisive game three, 7-5. After Glenwood took game one, there wouldn’t have been a third game if Lee-Scott didn’t walk off in extra innings in game two, winning 5-4.
When the Warriors pushed the series to a rubber match, Glenwood had already used its top two starters, Mason McCraine and Tyler Sykes. But out of the blue, Fanning called on a secret weapon to start the series finale — sophomore Hudson Campbell.
“I like to have a guy that — if I can help it — is kind of in our rotation that no one that we’re going to face in the playoffs sees throughout the year,” Fanning said. “We pitch him versus non-region teams if possible and a lot of high-quality Georgia schools, and that’s what we did. He had been pitching all year, just not against any Alabama schools.”
Last season, sophomore Tyler Sykes started the state-clinching game against Macon-East, and Campbell kept that tradition going. He pitched five strong innings before Levi Pinder pitched the last two innings to earn the save and start the dog pile.
Another underclassman became an unforeseen hero in game three, as freshman Andrew Wilkinson went 3-for-4 after winning a JV State Championship earlier this spring. After getting a pinch-hit RBI in game two, Fanning and his staff decided he was ready to start two days later following a rain delay that postponed game three a day.
The underclassmen were a pleasant surprise, but it was the senior class of six that showed them the way. Shortstop Jaxson Griggs, center fielder Camden White and left fielder Eli Bankston were the three seniors who started for Glenwood. Griggs went 3-for-3 with three RBI in game three after slumping to start the series, Bankston recorded four hits in the series and three-sport All-Star White led the way with his unparalleled athleticism.
“[The senior class] will leave behind a legacy of service, humility and just being all about the program,” Fanning said. “They’re extremely unselfish regardless of how much they did or didn’t play… They had a very calming influence when we started out 0-4. They never got too high or too low, and I think that allowed us to turn the season around the way we did.”
Glenwood did it as a star-studded, veteran group in 2023. Nine of their 12 seniors signed a scholarship to play college baseball, and former Gator and current infielder at the University of South Alabama, Jaxon Milam, won AISA Hitter of the Year last season. To see Glenwood storm Patterson Field last season was no surprise.
But finishing at 36-8, the Gators did it all this season with only one returning starter in Griggs.
It was a fairytale ending to Glenwood’s AISA run, but it doesn’t look to be anywhere near the end. Glenwood is returning eight key contributors from this season: juniors Sykes, McCraine, Pinder, and second baseman Logan Henderson, along with sophomores Campbell, third baseman Carter Judah, catcher Cal Lawrence and DH Mac Blair.
“I’ve never been prouder to be a team’s coach than I am this year,” Fanning told WTVM’s Jonathon Hoppe. “When you lose (so many players) and return one guy that started (last year), it’s pretty impressive to win 36 games and get back to the state championship. It’s just a testament to their resiliency and really wanting to do everything they can to be a Glenwood baseball player.”
“23 for 23” was Glenwood’s motto when it was going for its 23rd state tile in 2023. This year, it was “24 for 24,” and next year it will be “25 for 25” as the Gators look to three-peat.
There’s one motto that they have every year, though, as they are looking for new guys to step up and fill the shoes of those who came before them. It will ring true as ever as Glenwood begins a new journey in AHSAA 3A.
“I’m super excited about the future,” Fanning said. “It’s why we say, ‘A dynasty never graduates.’”