Westminster (27-9) split the first two games last Monday, losing the first contest 5-1 and bouncing back to win the nightcap 12-4, before losing the third and deciding game 1-0.
It was a disappointing end to what was expected to be a march to the championship for a Westminster squad that entered the postseason as the top seed from Region 6AA and was considered to be the favorite in Class AA after finishing runner-up to Lovett last year.
However, the Wildcats fell to a GAC team on a surprising run after coming in as the fourth seed from 6AA.
“Certainly, every season — except for the six teams who win it in Georgia — are at some point going to come to a devastating end,” Westminster coach Russell Wrenn said. “Frankly, in a lot of ways, it was tougher than last year. Our kids were obviously upset when they lost in the finals a year ago. There were not a whole lot of expectations a year ago and we kind of exceeded expectations and this year was a little different.
“I think we came into the year, if not the favorite, then at least one of the favorites in the state and I believe I can put our group against anyone in the state. You’ve got to give credit to GAC. They were on an unbelievable run. They’ve knocked off three No. 1 seeds and they’ve come back from the fourth seed in our region to play for the state finals and it shows how strong our region is.”
GAC won by doing what Westminster’s first three state playoff opponents weren’t able to do — cool off a Wildcat offense that had scored 10 or more runs in each of their first six postseason games.
GAC pitcher and Kentucky signee Justin Lewis allowed only three singles and struck out eight Westminster hitters to pitch a complete-game victory for the Spartans in the opening game.
The Wildcats bounced back in a big way in the second contest as they scored six runs in the first inning to take control early and then added four more runs in the fifth.
The third game proved to be a pitcher’s duel between Westminster’s Luke Johnson and GAC’s Ben Childers, but the Spartans scored on the bottom of the fifth to get all the runs they would need.
While Westminster loses nine seniors, including Division I signees Jake Johnson (Notre Dame), Luke Johnson (Butler) and McClain Bradley (Wofford), Wrenn said there will plenty of talent returning for the Wildcats next season.
“Our senior class will go down in Westminster history as the most decorated senior class,” Wrenn said. “We’re losing nine guys and that’s a huge number — some great players. But we have a very talented sophomore and junior class, a lot of guys coming back. We have two sophomores who started the whole year for us and our No. 1 pitcher [Hunter Davis] is a junior. We have some good guys coming back.”