Alone at the top
Win No. 648 gives Hartselle's Booth state record
MADISON — When William Booth first took the job as Hartselle coach, he thought it would be a temporary experiment, a chance to see if his Little League coaching prowess could translate to the high school diamond. Nineteen years, six state titles and 648 wins later, that experiment has become a masterpiece.
Hartselle's 9-2 win over Bob Jones in the first game of a road doubleheader gave Booth win No. 648, making him the winningest high school coach in Alabama history. The win moved him past the late Sammy Dunn, a coaching legend at Vestavia Hills who amassed 647 wins over a 25-year career before dying of stomach cancer in 2004.
"I never dreamed something like this would happen when I first started 19 years ago," Booth said following the historic win. "I just took the job for one year and got hooked on it. I never thought I'd get to 100 wins, let alone this."
Booth picked up No. 649 later in the day as Hartselle (26-12) completed the sweep with a 10-7 victory in the second game of the doubleheader. The Tigers improved to 3-0 over the Class 6A Patriots, one of numerous large schools on Hartselle's regular-season schedule.
"The only 5A teams we play are usually the ones in our area," Booth said. "We don't play anyone below 5A and play mostly 6A teams. When I first started, I wanted our kids to play the best teams that you can play and that's what we've been doing ever since."
Following the game one win, Booth received the game ball from assistant coach Chris Heaps and acted as though the win was just that — another of many regular-season victories in a long and illustrious career.
But this was no ordinary win, a fact made clear once the Bob Jones public-address announcer called Booth and the team out to home plate for a "special presentation."
After the announcer explained Booth had just set the new state record for most career wins, the coach was presented with a commemorative T-shirt from Hartselle principal Jerry Reeves. The shirt read, "Alabama's Winningest AHSAA Baseball Coach; William Booth, Hartselle High School; 648 wins…and counting."
After the presentation, Heaps — who was a player on Booth's first team in 1989 and was coached by Booth as far back as Little League ball — had a lot to say about his mentor and friend.
"I've been with coach Booth now since I was seven years old, and the one thing that hasn't changed is his work ethic," he said. "He never calls in sick; he's here every day and always has high expectations for us. If you don’t' have high expectations, you can't have high achievement. That's something I learned from him at a very young age."
Senior captain Daxton Maze said it was special for him and his Hartselle teammates to be a part of history.
"It's a momentous occasion for us," he said. "It's something special to know that we're the team who put him over the top for the record. It's always something we'll be able to remember because we'll be in the record books for it."
In typical coach Booth fashion, he was quick to deflect the attention away from the Bob Jones win and focus it instead on his and the team's ultimate goal — that elusive seventh blue trophy.
"It's not about me," he said. "It's about this team. We're on a mission, and hopefully this is a good start. We want to be playing well heading into the playoffs in two weeks. We want to win the state championship."
Bob Jones 2
The heart of the order lived up to its name for Hartselle as the Tigers blitzed Bob Jones. The Tigers' No. 3, 4 and 5 hitters (Joe McClanahan, Keith McCaghren and Jake Bradford) were a combined 5-for-8, scored five runs and had six RBIs in the victory.
Jordan Parker also had a productive game in the No. 2 spot, scoring three runs and finishing 3-for-3 with two doubles. McCaghren and Bradford both hit two-run home runs.
Hartselle led 2-0 after the first after two-out RBI singles from Bradford and Daxton Maze. Bob Jones cut that lead in half with a leadoff home run by Jeff Bolger, but Hartselle came back with four runs in the top of the second and cruised from there.
McCaghren picked up the win on the mound, throwing six innings and striking out six. Steven Chop pitched the seventh, shutting down the Patriots in order.
Josh Busing took the loss for Bob Jones, allowing nine earned runs in 3.1 innings.
Bob Jones 7
Will Rankin pitched the complete game for Hartselle, striking out seven.
Parker had two hits including a home run, and McClanahan also finished with two hits.
Tyson Parker took the loss for Bob Jones, which fell one game below .500 after the defeat.