Billingsley’s magical season brings fun, optimism, experience to program

Published 12:08 pm Wednesday, May 17, 2023

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By Carey Reeder | Managing Editor

The greatest baseball season in Billingsley High School history came to an end on May 10, but the effects of the season will be felt in the program for years to come. The Bears’ magical run to the AHSAA Class 1A State Baseball Tournament semifinals was halted by Brantley High School sweeping the series 2-0.

In game one, Billingsley pitcher Mason Truesdale was humming through the first five innings allowing just three hits (all singles). Truesdale was given the lead in the fifth inning when Hudson Manning led off the inning with a single, and after a groundout and flyout, he scored on an RBI single from Kyle Boice.

Brantley loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth inning with three-straight singles to lead off the inning. The game was tied after a sacrifice fly, and Brantley got the lead on a single later in the inning. Truesdale did get a double play to end the inning. The Bears could not plate a run in their last inning up to bat and fell 2-1.

Boice was 2-for-2 with an RBI and a walk, Manning was 2-for-3 and Nathan Gilmore and Shane Shirah each had a double. Truesdale’s final line was six innings pitched and surrendering seven hits, two runs and one walk.

In game two, Brantley jumped ahead 2-0 early but a Boice RBI single in the fourth inning cut the lead to 2-1. However, Brantley added three runs in the fifth inning to make it 5-1. Gilmore knocked an RBI single in the sixth inning, but that was all the scoring for the Bears and lost 6-2. Boice and Landon Jones both went 2-for-3 at the plate in game two.

“I knew we had a good chance of making a deep run in the playoffs, and had a good chance to win the area for sure,” Billingsley coach Jeffrey Alexander said. “We exceeded my expectations by making the fourth round and being a couple of outs here and a couple of hits there away from playing for the state title. I knew we had a good team coming into the season, but I was really proud of the guys for making it as far as they did.”

Those expectations were high in the preseason as the Bears knew they had the pitching staff and talent to make a run. It was not until midseason when Alexander began to figure out their pitching rotation and their overall defense improved. He noticed then that they could be a really good team. Shortly after that the Bears bats came around as well to round the team into its most perfect form. Also, a perfect game thrown by Truesdale on Feb. 28 does not hurt team morale by any means.

“If you want to be a championship-type of team, or make a deep run in the state playoffs, it starts in the preseason,” Alexander said. “After (the Brantley game) I told them ‘We set that standard in the summer.’ There is some stuff that we can improve on, and the coaching staff can improve on, to make that last jump into the state finals.”

Alexander got to Billingsley in 2019 and began coaching softball. Shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic forced a shutdown of the 2020 season, and the Billingsley athletic director asked Alexander if he wanted to take over the baseball program. He agreed, and has just completed his third year at the helm for the Bears.

“This season was absolutely the most fun I have had coaching,” Alexander said. “Winning helps a lot, but being able to coach this group of guys made it that much more fun.”

Billingsley won the AHSAA Class 1A Area 6 championship over Maplesville High School as well this season, which Alexander pinpointed as his most memorable moment. Beating Leroy High School in the third round to move on to the semifinals was a close second.

Billingsley is losing only two seniors, Shirah and Jason Smith, off the team this year and will return a large portion of their stellar pitching staff and lineup next year.

“I told the seniors after the loss to Brantley that they were the stepping stones for the rest of the guys for the work they have put in, and the leadership they had,” Alexander said.

With another year of experience, and a taste of the semifinals, Alexander and the Bears are poised to regroup and make another run in 2024.