OXFORD, Ala. — Holtville High School senior Sam Silas closed out his final season with a memory he’ll never forget. The Jacksonville State University baseball signee ripped a two-run homer off Sardis High School pitcher Blaize Gerhart over the left-field fence to break a 1-1 tie and secured the Bulldogs’ 3-1 victory and the school’s first-ever state baseball championship.
Holtville (28-14), coached by Scott Tubbs, won Game 1 Thursday night with a come-from-behind 3-2 win over the Lions at Oxford’s Choccolocco Park signature Field. Friday’s championship win came at Jim Case Stadium / Rudy Abbott Field – the same place Silas will be spending his college years.
“This is a memory I will treasure forever,” said Silas, who also had the game-winning hit in the first game – a single in the seventh inning that broke a 2-2 tie and drove in the winning run. He closed his senior season with 51 hits in 124 at bats for a .411 batting average. He had three homers and 27 RBIs – including four in the state championship series. His homer was the only one hit in this year’s championship series in all classes.
Holtville reached the 5A finals last season and began this year with some unfinished business. Tubbs’ team got the job done Friday thanks to Silas’ two hits and two RBIs and an upper pitching effort by Drey Barrett (6-3). The junior hurler heading to Southern Miss finished the season with a four-hitter and six strikeouts. The run he yielded was unearned. He closed his senior season with 61 strikeouts in 52 2/3 innings and a 1.92 ERA.
Sardis’ losing pitcher Gerhart (9-2) also pitched well giving up eight scattered hits, walking one and striking out three – pushing his season total to 101. He threw 83 pitches with 49 strikes, and Barrett had 85 pitches with 51 being strikes.
Silas drove in pinch runner Cederick Croskey when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded I the bottom of the second inning to tie the final game at 1-1. Sardis took the lead in the top of that inning when Trey Thornton reached safely on a fielder’s choice and scored on a throwing error.
Tubbs said the 2023 Bulldogs team had been on a mission of unfinished business since losing in the 5A state finals in 2022.
“We played a very tough schedule to begin the season, and we had a hard time finding our identity,” said Tubbs, a cancer survivor who has a 647-259 career coaching record and nine appearances in state championship games.
“At spring break, we were 10-8 on the season. We learned a lot about ourselves during that stretch. When it became playoff time, my guys flipped the switch and started playing with confidence. Our playoff stretch has been very tough, but my guys handled very well.”
Sardis (30-8), coached by Kevin Vinson, said his team has made him proud on and off the field. “I can’t tell you how much these kids mean to me and our town,” he said.
"This community, the support we've had throughout the entire playoffs has been incredible," Vinson said in postgame media availability. "I encourage anybody this never been to a playoff series at Sardis High School, you need to figure out a way to get your tails there because it is unlike any other and I will guarantee you that it's the best environment you will ever see in high school baseball. And these guys are the reason for that."
Vinson would describe the day as the "hardest day of [his] life, but it's one f the best days of [his] life at the same time."
The Class 3A state championship series closed out the 2023 AHSAA State Baseball Championships. Other state champions includes Vestavia Hills (7A); Oxford (6A); Etowah (4A); Houston Academy (3A); Ariton (2A); and Appalachian (1A).
For Ariton, Appalachian and Holtville, the championships were the first in school history for their baseball programs.
AHSAA State Baseball Championship Series Results
Game 1: Appalachian (30-4) 18, Brantley (20-8) 3
Game 2: Appalachian (31-4) 11, Brantley (20-9) 10 (Appalachian wins series 2-0)
Game 1: Ariton (30-12-1) 2, Vincent (30-6) 1
Game 2: Ariton (31-12-1) 5, Vincent (30-7) 4 (Ariton wins series 2-0)
Game 2: Oxford (39-6) 12, Spanish Fort (29-19) 3 (Oxford (39-6) wins series 2-0)
Game 1: Etowah (29-11) 6, UMS-Wright (27-13) 1
Game 2: Etowah (30-11) 5, UMS-Wright (27-14) 1 (Etowah (30-11) wins series 2-0)
Game 1: Gordo (33-5) 2, Houston Academy (26-8) 1
Game 2: Houston Academy (27-8) 4, Gordo (33-6) 3 (8 innings)
Game 3: Houston Academy (28-8) 4, Gordo (33-7) 3 (Houston Academy (28-8) wins series 2-0)
Game 1: Vestavia Hills (33-10) 5, Central-Phenix City (33-10) 4
Game 2: Central-Phenix City (34-10) 5, Vestavia Hills (33-11) 4
Game 3: Vestavia Hills (34-11) 4, Central-Phenix City (34-11) 1 (Vestavia Hills (34-11) wins series 2-0)
Game 1: Holtville (26-14) 3, Sardis (30-7) 2
Game 2: Holtville (27-14) 3, Sardis (30-7) 1 (Holtville (27-14) wins series 2-0)