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Bulldogs are state champs

After falling behind twice and fighting through eight tough innings and a two-hour rain delay, the Brantley Bulldogs finally claimed their first state baseball championship with a 9-8 victory over Athens Bible School at Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery yesterday.

The two teams played to a 7-7 tie during the regulation seven innings, but the Trojans pulled ahead 8-7 in the top of the eighth.

In the bottom half of that inning, Jared Hall knocked a single to right field to bring Anthony Gulley around to score and tie the game.

After loading the bases full of Bulldogs, freshman Jared Wiley came up to bat and smacked a hit through the middle of the infield that brought Chase Hall home from third base with the winning run.

“Coach just said to give him a fly ball,” Wiley said.

“Jared had been the DH and hitting the ball hard, but he just had hard luck,” said head coach Ashley Kilcrease. “He did just what I asked — he got it to the outfield.”

That hit was the final blow in a game that saw the momentum swing back and forth several times.

Athens Bible struck first in the top of the first inning with three runs, but Brantley took it in stride.

Reed Kilcrease had a bases-loaded single for the Bulldogs in the bottom of the first, and Chris Walker followed with another single down the third-base line to tie the game.

Both pitchers settled down and neither team scored again until Brantley threatened to blow the game open in the fifth inning.

With RBIs from Stephen Walker and Adam Hill, along with a run on a wild pitch, the Bulldogs pulled ahead 7-3.

The Trojans then rallied to tie the game in the top of the sixth to set up the extra inning and nail-biting win.

“That was the 12th or 13th time we’ve come from behind to win this season,” Kilcrease said. “The guys just never quit and believed.”

Walker, a senior, pitched the complete game for the Bulldogs.

“We were pretty good last year, and Coach kept telling us this was a special team,” said Gulley, the team’s only other senior.

“These two seniors have been with me since the ninth grade,” Kilcrease said. “We were kind of the laughingstock when we started. People played football and basketball, but baseball was just something to do. They’re tremendous leaders and people.”

Chris Walker led the way for Brantley with two RBIs, and Stephen Walker, Adam Hill, Jared Hall, Reed Kilcrease and Jared Wiley also had RBIs.

Hill was named the MVP for the Bulldogs.

“I’m very surprised to be the MVP,” he said after the game.

Kilcrease also gave credit for the team’s success to the people of Brantley.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be part of a great community like Brantley,” he said. “These guys put up a lot of hard work and dedication.”