By Wil Crews
The Glenwood varsity baseball team saw its season come to an end last weekend with 10-9 and 15-0 defeats at the hands of the Bessemer Academy Rebels in the third round of the AISA Class 3A playoffs last Wednesday.
“They were ready to go to the state championship game and we weren’t,” Glenwood head coach Tim Fanning said.
Coming into the series, Fanning maintained that he “liked his pitching against anyone.” Instead, the Rebel offense proved too potent to handle and Glenwood limped out of the state tournament in the end.
In the highly contested first game, pitching was neither team’s forte. Bessemer scored first, plating two runs in the bottom of the first inning. The Rebels then added to their lead with three more runs in the second. The Gators then responded in the third, but the Rebels once again extended their lead in the bottom of the inning with two more runners crossing the plate. Glenwood pitcher Colton Dempsey settled in after that, and following two scoreless innings from the Gator, the score sat at 7-3, Rebels.
The sixth inning is where Glenwood made its run. The Gators were able to plate four thanks to Dempsey’s lone hit of the night – a grand slam – to tie the game at 7. Then, Glenwood importantly got out of the inning without allowing the Rebels to respond with runs of their own. The Gators rode their momentum into the seventh inning and scored two more to take their first lead of the game.
“He [Dempsey] threw up three goose eggs in a row and we just started hitting,” Fanning said. “But defense cost us in that game. We made six errors.”
Bessemer was then in need of a final, seventh inning rally. And they got one. Two Rebels reached base and a single plated them both to tie the game at 9-9. With the winning run on third, Glenwood walked two Bessemer batters to load the bases. Then, Bessemer’s Elijah Evans was the hero, dinking in a ground ball to left field, driving home the base runner to win the game 10-9.
In the end, Dempsey’s resilient mid-game turnaround to keep his team in the game proved fruitless. Similarly, solid hitting performances from the likes of Cam Carpenter, Lukas Holman and Ty Smith went by the wayside because of the defensive lapses.
“I was proud of him for fighting back,” Fanning said of Dempsey. “But when you give a really good team that many extra opportunities it usually comes back to bite you – and it did.”
The second game was one to forget for Glenwood. After an hour and a half weather delay, the Rebels got off to a thunderous start, earning a 5-0 lead at the end of the first inning. Despite Glenwood’s throwing its ace, Trevor Horne, Bessemer continued the torrential onslaught in the second and scored six more runs to put the Gators in a daunting 11-0 hole.
“They were ready man,” Fanning said of Bessemer. “Trevor battled as long as he could; they just hit him around, you know.”
Things went from bad to worse and the Rebels built upon their momentum by adding four more runs in the third to make it 15-0.
Glenwood was suddenly pushed to the brink of elimination. Needing to muster six runs to avoid a run-rule end to the game, the Gators showed some fight as the leadoff hitter made it to first on a single. However, the next Glenwood batter struck out and a then a ground ball double play ended the inning, the game and Glenwood’s hope of another state title. The only Gator hitters to reach base were Smith, who went 2-for-2 with a double and Avery Robinson, who finished 1-for-1 with a double.
After the loss Fanning said he believed the way his team lost game one “absolutely” had an effect on their performance in game two.
“And that’s why you have to be so tough mentally to win the three game series because you have those ebbs and flow,” Fanning said. “If you get to high and let it crash you down when you lose, you got to pick right back up and in a game of that magnitude you have to have everything focused mentally, not just physically.”
Despite the defeat, however, it was still a successful season for Glenwood. The Gators finish as region champs, with a final record of 34-12. Fanning’s lasting impression of his team everything but disappointed.
“I’m proud of the seniors and they are a great group of kids,” he said. “In the end we didn’t have what it took to make it to the state championship, that doesn’t make them bad people. So, I’m proud of what they have contributed to the Glenwood baseball program and I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with the rest of their lives.”