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Finishing strong: BHS celebrates state championship

Finish strong: That was the main theme of last Thursday evening’s celebration banquet for Brantley School’s Class 1A state baseball championship team. And finish strong they did.

“What you guys did this year was incredible, and you’ll forever be remembered as the first baseball champions in the history of Crenshaw County and Brantley School,” Dr. Charles Tompkins said as he welcomed the packed crowd to the Bethany Center in Brantley.

The center was beautifully decorated with green, white and black balloons, table centerpieces, and framed collages of photos taken during the season as well as during the state championship games.

“A true champion understands that God has gifted him or her with gifts and abilities,” said guest speaker John Gibbons, director of the Alabama chapter of FCA. “We need to give our gifts back for the glory of God. These things help us to build up for life’s challenges.”

“In that final inning when you came back and won, it was a storybook ending,” Gibbons said.

The Bulldogs defeated Athens Bible 3-1 and 9-8 for the Class 1A state championship on May 12-13.

Sen. Wendell Mitchell and Rep. Charles Newton were among the many guest presenters for the evening.

“It’s obvious your team knows something about working together,” Rep. Newton said. “You’ve pulled a tight community even tighter together.”

Seniors Anthony Gulley and Stephen Walker stood with Mitchell, Newton, and head coach Ashley Kilcrease while Mitchell read a proclamation from Gov. Bob Riley. Mitchell and Newton then presented a $2,000 check to the school to help pay for the evening’s banquet.

“There’s nothing sweeter than being a first-year principal and winning a first-year baseball championship,” BHS Principal Ashley Catrett said. “We not only made history, but we did it with character and class.”

Head coach Ashley Kilcrease said seniors Gulley and Walker had seen a 90-36 record during their varsity careers.

“Stephen pitched 21 innings in 9 days, but I wasn’t about to take him out,” Kilcrease said. “Stephen, you finished strong.”

Gulley batted a .417 average even with a slump during the latter part of the season, Kilcrease said.

“When asked about it, Anthony told the reporter that he wasn’t worried about any slump—we had just won a state championship,” Kilcrease said, laughing. “Anthony just takes things in stride.”

As a final surprise for the night, the players’ fathers presented them with their jerseys framed.

Kilcrease added that the team had received $12,000 in donations from the community to go toward their championship rings, which should arrive in August.