It was obvious from the start that Billingsley appeared out of sync.
Countless errors and mental mistakes resulted in the Bears being on the wrong end of a 6-1 deficit after just two innings during the opener of Saturday’s Class 1A first-round playoff series against Wadley.
There seemed to not have been any resemblance of the squad that entered riding an eight-game unbeaten streak. Nor the team that finally broke through with wins over rival Maplesville to capture its first area championship since 2008.
“I thought we had some errors in the field,” Bears head coach Jason Mattox said. “We’ve done that before in the past. We’ve showed up kind of flat, and it would take us a couple of innings to wake up. … That’s kind of what happened in that first game.”
In fact, it did take the Bears a few innings to heat up, but once they finally did, all Wadley could do was watch the runs quickly pile up. Billingsley swept the series 7-6, 12-2.
Tied 6-6 with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, Billingsley’s Kendall Elrod drove in the game-winning run with bases loaded to cap a three-run frame. Eric Willis had a sacrifice fly, and Justin Snow’s RBI single set the stage for the late-game heroics.
“I knew all eyes were on me, so I knew I had to do something right there, right now,” said Elrod, who was 0-for-3 with a strikeout prior to his walk-off hit.
The Bears (20-12) carried their red-hot swing into Game 2, where they registered seven hits (two doubles) during a nine-run second off Wadley starter Brandon Norris. Senior Matt Prebula singled, doubled and scored twice in the frame.
“We got more fired up, and into the game, those later innings, and I think that gave us some motivation to win this,” said Mattox, a second-year coach. “We just want to play with unity every single game and see how far that can take us.”
The series sweep also helped this year’s squad claim the most wins in school history.
“It means a lot because we had a bunch of good players come through here,” said outfielder/pitcher Garrett Price, who recently signed with NAIA’s Morthland College (Ill.). “To be the first team to ever get 20 wins speaks a lot.”
Billingsley will host either Verbena or Maplesville in the second round on Friday.