By Rubin E. Grant
The Briarwood Christian baseball team can thank the sister of Carson McKinney for him becoming the ace of the Lions’ pitching staff.
McKinney orally committed to the University of Alabama when he was a freshman in high school and living in San Diego.
His family decided to move to Birmingham so he could become familiar with the South before eventually enrolling at Alabama.
His older sister Arianna wanted to attend a private school for her senior year, so she and their mom traveled to Alabama to scout out schools. They visited Briarwood and loved it.
On their trip, they met Lions’ baseball coach Steve Renfroe, and McKinney’s mother mentioned she had a son who played baseball.
So, Carson McKinney came to Briarwood for a visit and decided he wanted to be a part of the Lions’ baseball program.
During his sophomore season in 2019, he helped the Lions overcome a 0-11 start and reach the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 5A championship series, where Briarwood lost in three games to Springville in the best-of-3 series to finish as runners-up.
McKinney was voted to the 2019 All-OTMJ baseball team and named second-team All-State by the Alabama Sports Writers Association.
This spring, McKinney, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound hard-throwing junior right-hander, has become Briarwood’s No. 1 pitcher. He won his first three decisions before a 3-2 setback last Thursday against Oak Mountain.
“I think I’m having a good season so far,” McKinney said. “We started off strong, 6-0, but have been humbled lately.”
The Lions lost five of their next six games to slip to 7-5, but McKinney still believes Briarwood can make another deep run in the playoffs.
“I think we have a great team,” he said. “We have great senior leadership and good team chemistry.”
Of course, the Lions’ season has been suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Steve Savarese, executive director of the Alabama High School Athletic Association, wrote in a memo to schools last Friday that athletic contests, practices, weightlifting and conditioning are all suspended after Tuesday. He wrote that the AHSAA would re-evaluate health conditions and determine the status of spring sports championship play after schools re-open.
The Lions were scheduled to play a double-header Tuesday against John Carroll Catholic before their hiatus.
“I don’t know when we’ll play again,” Renfroe said. “We didn’t see this coming, but we have to trust the authorities, follow their directives and take it one day at a time. There’s no reason to worry or look ahead.”
When play does resume, Renfroe expects the Lions to be ready.
“I like the make-up of this club,” he said. “We’ve got a great bunch of kids and they’re great competitors.”
Renfroe mentioned several players the Lions are counting on, including junior second baseman Parker Hutson, junior shortstop Wesley Helms, junior catcher Tyler Waugh, junior center fielder Eli Steadman, senior left fielder-pitcher Blake McKenna, junior pitcher Jonah Carroll and McKinney, who plays first and third base on the days he doesn’t pitch.
“If we can stay healthy, I think we have a chance of contending for the state championship,” Renfroe said.