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Red Bay sweeps Sulligent to advance

The Red Bay Tigers (20-9) swept the Sulligent Blue Devils in two games Friday to advance to the third round of the Class 2A baseball state playoffs.

It is the first time since 1993 that the Red Bay baseball program has advanced this deep into the playoffs. The last time a Red Bay boys athletic program advanced this far was the 2007 football team.

Red Bay will get to host for the third straight week as well. The Tigers will welcome Westbrook Christian to campus Thursday, with game one starting at 5 p.m. and game two at 7:30 p.m. The decisive third game, if needed, will be Friday at 1 p.m.

“This is a great accomplishment when you consider how far this program has come,” said Red Bay coach Richard Maggerise. “We started at rock bottom a few years ago, and to get here is a testament to the perseverance of these kids, especially these seniors.”

Red Bay has nine seniors, seven of whom are starters.

Some traditional baseball powers did not stand in the Tigers’ way this season, which Maggerise said he saw as an advantage.

“We obviously benefited from Mars Hill moving down and Phil Campbell moving up,” said Maggerise. “We knew we had a chance to get to this point; now we have to take advantage of it.”

Mars Hill moved from Class 2A to Class 1A and is steamrolling opponents in the playoffs. Phil Campbell moved from Class 2A to Class 3A and will play in the quarterfinals this week as well.

Red Bay beat Sulligent 7-6 in game one on a walk-off hit by one of the aforementioned seniors, Cade McKinney.

“I was really proud of Cade,” said Maggerise. “He hasn’t gotten to start until this year, and to see him get that big hit to help get us to the third round was great.”

In game one, Red Bay jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the fourth inning, but Sulligent climbed back into the game with two runs in the fifth to cut the Tigers’ lead to 4-2. Red Bay added a run in the sixth inning to increase that lead to 5-2, but Sulligent took the lead in the top of the seventh, scoring four runs to make the score 6-5.

With two runners on base, McKinney hit a line drive into left field that scored Kolby Bragwell and Chase Allen to give the Tigers’ the walk-off win.

Bragwell went 2-for-2 with two RBIs and scored two runs to lead the Tigers at the plate. Kaleb Bragwell and Alex Burroughs also had two hits each for Red Bay.

Sulligent outhit Red Bay 12 hits to nine, and the Blue Devils committed five errors in the field.

In game two, both teams combined for 31 hits – Red Bay 16 and Sulligent 15 – but Red Bay combined for 10 runs in a six-run fourth inning and a four-run seventh inning to get the sweep, winning 13-8.

Alex Burroughs had two hits, two RBIs and scored two runs. Peyton Green had two hits, two RBIs and a run. McKinney had two hits, two RBIs and a run. Kolby Bragwell had two hits and an RBI and scored three times.  Chase Allen also scored three times. Zac Humphries had two hits and an RBI and scored a run. Colbie King had a three-hit game with an RBI and scored a run.

Maggerise said he knows things will get much tougher as his team advances through the playoffs.

“You would be naive to think you can get many sweeps this deep into the playoffs,” said the Tiger coach.  “Westbrook is an extremely talented team. They have an ace sophomore who has already committed to LSU.  They are well coached, and they’ve been there before.

“This is why you play the game – to play the best competition. It should be a great weekend of baseball.”