Prep baseball playoffs: Younger Billings helps Donoho match history

Joe Medley, The Anniston Star, Ala.
·4 min read

May 1—Judson Billings knows well the challenges of being a younger sibling to an accomplished older sibling. When it comes to sports achievements at Donoho, he'll always have Hall.

"My brother has always been hard on me, always pushed me to be the best player I can be," Judson said. "I used to be real lazy, but he pushed that out of me, thankfully."

Judson pitched a complete-game three-hitter Saturday, and the Falcons beat Lindsay Lane 5-1 in Game 3 of their best-of-3 Class 3A playoff series at Donoho field.

With the victory, Donoho (18-10) advances to the third round of the playoffs for the second time in program history, and second time in three years, and will play Marion County starting with Friday's doubleheader.

Hall Billings starred as a shortstop and pitcher on Donoho's 2019 team, the first Falcons team to reach the quarterfinals. He and teammate Seth Ford were first-team All-Calhoun County selections that season.

Like Hall, Judson plays football and baseball. Hall was the star quarterback in football and the 6-foot-4, 235-pound Judson a lineman. Judson pitches and plays first base in baseball.

Hall Billings carried his baseball career to college, to Huntingdon. Judson is a Donoho junior, still making his mark.

Putting a one on the opponent's side of the scoreboard in a Game 3 to help Donoho match history counts as a mark.

"It's crazy," Judson said. "I mean, in football, he told me that he was better than me, or whatever, because we had a terrible year.

"So, I'm coming back this year, and baseball is his sport. I just want to show that we're better than he ever was."

Donoho can reach the semifinals for the first time ever.

"We've got guys that can play," Donoho coach Steve Gendron said. "I think we have a chance, because we've got pitching. We've got a solid junior class.

"You never know until you get there, but I like our chances. If we play the way we played this weekend, we're going to be all right, because they're a very good team."

Hall couldn't attend Donoho's series with Lindsey Lane. Huntingdon played at series at Mississippi College this weekend, but the brothers spoke by phone Friday night.

"He told me to come in and win," Judson said. "I told him I'll do my best.

"I try to stay level-minded, not get too cocky, not get too down on myself, and it worked out for us."

Judson's shakiest moments came in the first inning, when Lindsay Lane got two of its three hits and scored on a passed ball.

While Judson struggled with his curve ball Saturday, Gendron said, he settled down and got it done spotting his fastball.

"I got the nerves out in the first inning," Judson said. "I was trying to do too much, trying to strike out people.

"After that, I was just like, my defense is playing good, so I'm just going to let them win it for me, try and put it in the zone."

Two defensive plays stood out. Third baseman Nic Thompson ranged left and made a diving stop and throw on Micah Perkins' grounder in the Lindsay Lane fifth. In the sixth, catcher Lucas Elliott pressed against the backstop to get under Jackson Carter's high pop, then leaned back with an outstretched glove and caught it.

Both were third-out plays. Lindsay Lane had runners on the corners in the sixth inning.

Donoho took a 4-1 lead with a three-run second inning. Thompson's two-run single was the big blow. Slade Haney's fly to center field scored Blake Willingham, who walked then reached third on Thompson's hit.

Elliott's RBI single in the first inning tied the game 1-1, and Connor Goodson drew a bases-loaded walk in the fourth.

"We have one senior on this team, Blake Willingham, who pitched his tail off to put us in position to be here today," Gendron said. "I felt like we were in a better position than them, because we had Judson Billings full rest. I had William Folsom full rest.

"Any time you get to Game 3, and you've got two guys that have logged some innings during the year, I told them we're going to pitch well. If we hit and take care of the ball on defense, good things are going to happen."

Sports Writer Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter: @jmedley_star.