GULF SHORES — The Gulf Shores Dolphins staked claim to island bragging rights with a 10-0 win over the Orange Beach Makos Friday night at home during the Prep Baseball Report South Alabama …
GULF SHORES — The Gulf Shores Dolphins staked claim to island bragging rights with a 10-0 win over the Orange Beach Makos Friday night at home during the Prep Baseball Report South Alabama Showdown.
It was the first meeting on the baseball diamond between Pleasure Island’s city schools and it was Connor Gehr and Brendon Byrd who teamed up to help the host Dolphins get ahead early and stay ahead.
Gehr started on the mound for Gulf Shores and scattered four hits over six innings while striking out seven Orange Beach batters. He helped his own cause at the plate with three hits and two RBIs on a triple and two singles.
“I felt like I threw the ball pretty well, had a decent day at the plate but we came together as a team and scored runs when we needed them and had timely hits,” Gehr said.
Byrd collected four RBIs as part of a 3-for-4 day at the plate where he also singled twice and tripled. His two-RBI triple was part of a five-run third inning that sent 11 Dolphin batters to the plate after they capitalized on the message from head coach Chris Jacks.
“My teammates were getting on base and getting the job done, I had the easy part to just hit them in,” Byrd said.
“The fastball was kind of overpowering us a little bit, we were a little tardy there but we got up there and got our foot down a little earlier and just tried to find some barrels,” Jacks said of the approach against the Makos’ starting pitcher Rylan Gober. “We came in that inning and I challenged them, ‘Let’s try and get this guy off the bump and see what we’ve got in the bullpen.’ Kudos to the kids for making an adjustment at the plate.”
Byrd’s been coming up big in return to baseball
After he quarterbacked Gulf Shores to its best football season in program history and a third-round playoff berth, Byrd hit the hardwood and played point guard for the Dolphins in the winter. This spring, he decided to return to baseball — where he has not played at the varsity level and hadn’t played since his freshman year on a travel team.
Friday served as Byrd’s first varsity baseball start and Jacks said he plans on penciling in No. 9 to the lineup for the foreseeable future.
“He’s just the type of kid we want in the program. I didn’t know what type of expectations to have, I just knew he’s a Division I athlete and those are hard to come by,” Jacks said. “The first two games he didn’t play much, got one at-bat. The third game Spencer (Holmes), our left fielder, had a little ankle injury so we slid him in the lineup, and I don’t think he’ll be coming out probably the rest of the year.”
Dolphins grab win in first baseball meeting against the Makos
Although it’s hard to have a rivalry with a team you haven’t yet played, there was plenty of familiarity between the baseball squads from Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.
Gehr said this game had been circled since the schedule was finalized.
“It’s huge, definitely great to get the bragging rights,” Gehr said. “Ever since we got it scheduled we’ve been looking forward to this game. We really wanted to win that game and it feels great.”
New to the island rivalry is Byrd in his first year at Gulf Shores but he knew the stakes coming into Friday night were large.
“I haven’t ever really done it so it’s like the Auburn-Alabama game, the Iron Bowl,” Byrd said. “It’s a big rivalry and I’m glad we came out with the win.”
Jacks: more a community than a rivalry
The Dolphin skipper said the playoff-type atmosphere Friday night was mainly a result of the two island communities coming together with so much overlap in the programs’ athletes.
“Just like at the volleyball state tournament when our girls were playing in the Final Four and the Orange Beach girls were cheering for us. Then when Orange Beach played, our girls were cheering them on so we’re all friends, it’s a friendly rivalry but I think it’s good for both schools,” Jacks said. “I think the competition is a good thing and I think they’ll help bring the best out of us and I hope that we can do the same for them, I enjoyed playing those guys.”
“Win every inning, score first then stay on them the whole game,” Gehr said of the coaches’ pregame message. “I saw us have good approaches at the plate, didn’t try to do too much with the baseball, won our at-bats, got on base when we needed to and had timely hits to score them.”
“One of the best feelings ever, that’s indescribable,” Byrd said of his emotions pulling into third base. “I saw I smoked it out of the box, I thought it was foul but it wasn’t and I just kept going and it ended up being fair.”
“High school baseball in February’s normally pretty cold and you don’t get great atmospheres like this so kudos to David Sharp and his guys at PBR for scheduling this game,” Jacks said. Stay tuned for a full story on Prep Baseball Report’s event in Baldwin County.