Thursday, May 8, 2008
Patriots advance to final four
By BARRY BURLESON
Marshall Academy rallied in game one of the state playoff quarter-finals and dominated in game two.
The 7-4 and 11-0 wins over Winston Academy avenged losses in the same round last year and propels the Patriots (20-4) into the Class AA north half title series (state semi-finals) this week versus Kirk.
“This team showed what it is capable of doing,” said head coach Jimmy Hicks. “We’re fired up and excited about the chance to play for a north half championship. We know we have a super chance to get (state championship) rings. That’s our goal.”
Winston’s Tyler Dalton carried a no-hitter and a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the fifth inning Tuesday of last week. That was spoiled by Wesley Harris, and it was all MA from there as the home team came from behind to win 7-4.
Marshall, thanks to Harris’ spark, scored three in the fifth to get within one.
Then the Patriots completed the rally with four runs in the bottom of the sixth.
Caleb Byrd led off the sixth with a single. Nick Tate followed with a single. Joey Brock hit a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Byrd. Harris reached on a fielder’s choice.
Tyler Childers singled and Harris was able to advance to third. Marshall then executed its “first and third early break” to perfection. The Winston pitcher, with Childers going for the early steal, threw to second. Childers was safe and on the play Harris scored the go-ahead run.
Hunter Bolden walked. Then Tyler Sanders delivered the huge, clutch hit – a double scoring Childers and Bolden and giving the Patriots the three-run lead going to the seventh.
“That’s the way we’ve been playing all year,” Hicks said. “Most games we get the majority of our runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh. I hate waiting around like that, but we’ve done a good job of coming through in the clutch and not giving up.”
Each time had five hits.
MA’s Chris Gardner, who Hicks said did “a great job,” went the distance for the win. He struck out seven, walked two and hit two Winston batters.
The visitors scored two runs in the first inning and two in the second, largely due to Marshall miscues.
“We seemed a bit nervous at first,” Hicks said, “plus we had not played in over a week (the district champs received a first-round bye). I got frustrated because we were not making the routine plays, but we got that out us, thank goodness.”
Dalton, Winston’s star hurler, issued eight walks.
“I told our guys in the fourth or fifth inning to be more selective on his curve ball,” Hicks said. “In the sixth and seventh he was getting tired and pretty much ditched the curve ball.”
There was no waiting around by the Patriots in game two at Louisville Thursday. Marshall scored early and often on its way to an 11-0, five-inning blowout.
“We didn’t score in the first inning, but we hit it hard,” Hicks said. “We came out smoking – right out of the gate.”
The Patriots scored three in the second, two coming on Byrd’s home run over the left field fence. They added four in the third and four in the fifth. Childers’ grand slam to left/center in the fifth helped MA surpass the 10-run rule margin.
MA had eight hits. Childers also added a triple and Byrd a single. Joey Brock, a ninth grader, was two for two with two singles and three runs-batted-in. Bolden and Sanders had each had a single.
“Hitting is contagious,” Hicks said about the offensive outburst.
Meanwhile, Marshall pitcher Shane Campbell was in complete control from the mound. The senior threw a one-hitter with Winston’s lone single coming on a “ground ball that took a wicked hop,” according to Hicks.
Campbell struck out four and walked two. No runners reached third against him and only one reached second. Just one ball was hit to the outfield. And MA committed only one error behind him.
“We played about as well as we could play,” Hicks said. “We came out and put it all together.
“Shane went out there and dominated. We had a game plan for each hitter, and he followed it to a T. He did an excellent job.”
The Marshall-Kirk series was set to begin Tuesday at MA. It swings to Grenada Thursday at 6 p.m. If needed, a third game will be played in Holly Springs Friday at 6 p.m.
Kirk, the Patriots’ district rival, knocked off Canton Academy in a series last week that went three games. Kirk won game one 10-3, lost game two 8-4 and won game three 11-9.
Marshall took two out of three from the Raiders during the regular season.
The MA-Kirk winner will face the south half survivor, either Copiah Academy or Central Private, next week for the Class AA state championship.
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