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Hartselle Enquirer
Enquirer photo/Jeronimo Nisa

Hartselle junior excels for Tigers

By David Elwell

For the Enquirer

It doesn’t take Hartselle baseball coach William Booth long to find the words to explain the success of pitcher Elliott Bray.

“He loves to compete and wants to pitch every big game,” Booth said. “Of course, it doesn’t hurt to be 6-3, weigh 215 pounds and throw it 90 miles per hour.”

Bray used all those tools to fashion a 9-3 record in his junior season with a 1.26 ERA. In 78 innings, he struck out 124 and walked 31. Opponents batted .204 while scoring 14 earned runs.

The three losses for Bray were 2-0 to Cullman, 2-1 to Tennessee power Houston – with 15 strikeouts – and 2-0 to Georgia powerhouse Buford.

The Auburn commit was named a first-team Class 6A All-State selection.

“I was proud of our team for the way we pulled together,” Bray said. “Our goal was to get Coach Booth back to Montgomery for another state championship. It would have been a great Cinderella story to win state, and we thought we had it – and then we didn’t.”

Faith Academy took home the 6A state championship trophy. Hartselle thought it had won the deciding third game with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh inning, but instead the runner was called out on an appeal that he left early. Faith scored seven runs in the eighth inning to win the game.

“That was a long bus ride home for us with a lot of silence,” Bray said. “We knew we had won it. I don’t think any of us will get over it any time soon.”

Without Bray, the Tigers probably wouldn’t have made it to Montgomery. He was the game two starter in each of Hartselle’s five play-off series games. Bray was the winning pitcher in series-clinching victories in the first round versus Buckhorn, 7-1, and the second round versus Homewood, 3-0.

Bray faced the pressure in must-win games in the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals. He got wins in all three rounds to keep the season going: In the quarterfinals, he beat Oxford 4-1. In the semifinals, he beat Chelsea 5-1. In the finals, he beat Faith Academy 8-3.

In Bray’s five play-off starts, he was 5-0 with 32 1/3 innings, five earned runs and 50 strikeouts.

“I’ve coached a lot of great pitchers, and Elliott ranks right up there,” Booth said. “Probably the only one that liked to compete as much as Elliott was Chad Girado.”

Girado graduated from Hartselle in 2009. After a star career at Mississippi State, he was drafted in the ninth round by the Toronto Blue Jays. He later pitched in the major leagues.

“Chad grew a lot as a player after he left Hartselle and played at Mississippi State,” Booth said. “I’ve told Butch (Thompson, Auburn coach) that when Elliott gets down there, he can go ahead and put him in the starting rotation. He’s ready now.”

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