AHSAA 5A Baseball Championship Series
Jacksonville, AL – Holtville standout, Sam Silas, concluded his senior season with an unforgettable moment etched in his memory. The talented baseball player, who has committed to Jacksonville State University, showcased his prowess by smashing a two-run home run off Sardis pitcher, Blaize Gerhart, over the left-field fence. This impressive feat not only broke the 1-1 tie but also secured a resounding 3-1 victory for the Bulldogs, marking their first-ever state baseball championship.
Coached by Scott Tubbs, Holtville (28-14) exhibited their resilience in Game 1 on Thursday night, mounting a remarkable comeback to secure a 3-2 win over the Lions at Oxford’s Choccolocco Park. Friday’s championship triumph unfolded at Jim Case Stadium / Rudy Abbott Field, which holds special significance for Silas, as it will be the venue for his collegiate career.
Reflecting on his heroic performance, Silas expressed, “This is a memory I will treasure forever.” The talented athlete not only delivered the game-winning hit in the first game, a crucial single in the seventh inning that broke the 2-2 tie and drove in the winning run, but he also closed his senior season with remarkable statistics. With 51 hits in 124 at-bats, Silas boasted an impressive batting average of .411. His contributions included three home runs and 27 RBIs, four of which were achieved in the state championship series. Notably, Silas’ homer stood as the sole home run recorded throughout this year’s championship series across all classes.
Having reached the 5A finals in the previous season, Holtville commenced this year with a determined pursuit of unfinished business. Under Tubbs’ guidance, the team rose to the occasion on Friday, thanks to Silas’ two hits and two RBIs, complemented by an outstanding pitching display from junior Drey Barrett (6-3). The Southern Miss-bound pitcher concluded the season with an exceptional four-hitter, striking out six batters and yielding only one unearned run. Throughout his senior season, Barrett amassed 61 strikeouts in 52 2/3 innings, culminating in an impressive 1.92 ERA.
Sardis’ pitcher Blaize Gerhart (9-2) also demonstrated commendable performance, allowing only eight scattered hits, walking one, and striking out three, raising his season total to 101 strikeouts. Gerhart delivered 83 pitches, with 49 strikes, while Barrett pitched 85 pitches, with 51 being strikes.
Silas showcased his versatility by driving in pinch runner Cederick Croskey, scoring the tying run in the bottom of the second inning when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Sardis had taken an early lead in the top of the same inning when Trey Thornton reached base on a fielder’s choice and subsequently scored on a throwing error.
Reflecting on the Holtville Bulldogs’ journey, Coach Tubbs expressed, “We played a very tough schedule to begin the season, and we had a hard time finding our identity.” Tubbs, a cancer survivor with an illustrious coaching career record of 647-259 and nine appearances in state championship games, acknowledged the team’s resilience. He commended his players for navigating a challenging early season, during which they struggled to find their identity. However, the team’s spring break served as a turning point, instilling confidence that carried them through the playoffs. Tubbs proudly acknowledged his players’ ability to handle the adversity faced during a grueling playoff stretch.
Kevin Vinson, the coach of Sardis (30-8), expressed his pride in the team’s accomplishments both on and off the field, emphasizing the significant impact they have made on the town.
The conclusion of the Class 3A state championship series marked the end of the 2023 AHSAA State Baseball Championships. Other state champions included Vestavia Hills (7A), Oxford (6A), Etowah (4A), Houston Academy (3A), Ariton (2A), and Appalachian (1A). For Ariton, Appalachian, and Holtville, these championships represent the first-ever state titles in their respective baseball programs’ histories.