Chelsea senior Bennett Horton has had a stellar baseball career for the Hornets. But he had never hit a home run and he had never been inserted into a more pressure-packed situation as a relief pitcher.
He came through at the plate and the mound in helping the Hornets to a 9-6 victory over Faith Academy Saturday in Mobile.
With the 2-1 series victory, the Hornets (21-12) advance to the third round of the Class 6A playoffs for the second time in three years. They will face Russell County in the next round.
Faith Academy, the winner of the Class 5A state championship a year ago, finishes the season 23-8.
Horton blasted a two-run homer in the bottom of the first inning to stake the Hornets to a lead they would never relinquish. Faith leftfielder Gabe Broadus almost robbed Horton of the home run, but he couldn’t make the catch as he banged into the fence at the same time the ball hit his glove.
“I hit one yesterday that I thought was going to get out,” Horton said. “I felt good at the plate and just got my hands ready to hit.”
Chelsea added a run in the second before Faith’s J.G. Bell launched a deep home run in the bottom of the third, his first of the year, to close the gap to 3-1.
Chelsea’s big inning came in the fourth. After two outs, the Hornets put together three hits and three walks to increase the lead to 7-1. A triple by Jacob Boyle and a double by Carter Frederick were the big blows.
But the Rams kept battling. A two-run homer in the fourth by Noah Broadus closed the lead to 7-3.
The lead was 7-4 when Horton took the mound with runners on second and third with nobody out. A groundout, infield popup and strikeout ended the threat with only one more run scoring.
An RBI double by Faith’s Bryant Andrews closed the lead to 8-6 after six innings.
Chelsea added an insurance run in the top of the seventh to increase the lead to 9-6 and set the stage for a dramatic bottom of the seventh.
A hard single by Jaron Harris and a walk to Gabe Broadus chased Horton.
The hard-throwing Frederick came in to strike out the first batter he faced, then yielded a single to Parker Carlson to load the bases with one out.
With the winning run at the plate, Fredrick threw a pitch to the backstop. But Boyle, the catcher, sprinted to get the ball and fired a strike to Frederick covering the plate. Both players slid at the same time as the ball arrived. Harris was out on the close play for the second out.
Frederick then struck out the final hitter on a curveball to end the game.
“That was a very competitive series against a very scrappy bunch,” said Faith coach Matt Seymour. “Baseball is a game where you have to take advantage of your opportunities. We just ran into a team that did a better job of that than us.”
Chelsea has won at least one playoff series in each of the last three years. Now the Hornets are ready to take the next step.
“That was another gutsy performance by our guys,” said Chelsea coach Michael Stallings. “That was a big-time battle the whole way. The home run early gave our offense confidence and we fought hard. I’m proud of our guys.”