Thursday, April 16, 2009
Marshall earns playoff position
Marshall Academy took two of three from Carroll last week and secured itself a state playoff berth.
Carroll 3 MA 2
With four district games remaining in the regular season and first place up for grabs, Marshall knew this would be a big series.
Carroll entered with a 7-4 district record and the Patriots 8-3. These two teams along with Lee (Clarksdale), with a conference mark of 9-4 were all in the hunt for the District 1-AA championship. The winner of the district receives an all-important bye during the first round of the playoffs.
Marshall, playing at home April 6, had its chances early against Holmes Community College signee Derek Purnell. Each of the first three innings, the Patriots had runners at third and no outs. It wasn’t until the third that they actually pushed across a run. Freshman Elgin Lafever led off with an infield single. He then stole second and advanced to third on an error. After a pair of strikeouts, Hunter Bolden and Parker James walked to load the bases. Josh Vanderburg was hit by a pitch, forcing in a run. The Patriots would add another run as Jake Omedeo reached on an error, scoring Bolden.
That would be all the Patriots could muster as Purnell had them eating out of his hand. He struck out 13 and stranded nine base runners.
Chris Gardner, for the second week in a row, was the hard luck loser. Gardner was on top of his game, striking out seven and walking none. He allowed only four hits. His record dropped to 3-2.
MA 5 Carroll 1
In the nightcap, the Patriots responded with a 5-1 victory. It wasn’t easy as Carroll sent senior Colby Mitchell to the mound – who sported an unblemished 5-0 record.
Marshall’s Joey Brock overwhelmed the Rebel batters, striking out 11 and taking a shutout into the seventh inning.
Gardner got the Patriots on the scoreboard in the second as he delivered a two RBI double, scoring James and Vanderburg, who had singles and doubled, respectively. In the fifth, MA gave Brock some cushion as Tyler Childers doubled, Joey Omedeo singled and Bolden reached on a fielders choice, scoring Childers. After James walked, Vanderburg knocked in another run to give MA a 5-0 advantage.
Brock had his best outing of the year, upping his season record to 4-1. He scattered three hits but walked five.
“Joey has really solidified our pitching staff,” coach Johnny Ray said. “He has been consistent and we know we are going to get a great effort out of him every time out.”
MA 8 Carroll 6
In the rubber game of the series Thursday at Carroll, Marshall’s bats came alive as they pounded out 13 hits against the same two pitchers they had faced earlier in the week.
“Our guys came to play today,” Coach Ray said. “They played with a sense of urgency.”
In the second inning, James led off with a single and stole second. With one out, Jake Omedeo delivered a solid single to put the Pats up 1-0. After a Gardner double, Caleb Byrd’s groundout allowed Omedeo to score.
Through two innings, the Patriots’ Will Patton was sharp. He hadn’t allowed a hit and had struck out four. Holding a 2-0 lead going into the bottom of the third, he seemingly was in control. But, he walked the first two of the inning, struck out the third and then walked the next two, forcing Ray to go to sophomore Jordan Brock. Brock responded with a strikeout and flyout but MA found itself trailing 3-2.
“Boy, Will was really sharp in the first two innings,” Ray said. “I really thought he was going be tough to beat.”
Marshall tied it back up at three in the fourth as Vanderburg singled and stole second. Gardner knocked him in one batter later with a single to left.
In the fifth, the Pats took control, plating three runs in the frame. The highlight of the inning was Bolden’s double that scored Joey Omedeo who had singled. That gave MA a 4-3 lead. Bolden and James also scored in the inning giving them a 6-3 lead.
The Rebels were the beneficiary of a couple of infield errors in the bottom of the fifth which allowed them to close the gap to 6-4.
Back-to-back doubles by Joey Brock and Childers in the sixth helped stretch the lead back to three.
Carroll, with their season on the line, wouldn’t go quietly. With Jordan Brock still on the mound, a single and two walks allowed them to make it interesting. After the second walk, James took the mound and walked one but got the third out of the inning on a strikeout.
Jordan Brock pitched three and a third strong innings of relief to secure the victory.
“That was a huge boost for our pitching staff for Jordan to pitch the way he did,” Ray said. “He has been very effective for us all season.”
A double by Vanderburg followed by a single by Jake Omedeo gave MA an insurance run in the top of the seventh. Senior pitcher Gardner entered in the seventh and sat down the Rebels in order, not allowing them to get a rally started.
“Chris went out and nailed it down for us,” Coach Ray said. “He was really focused.”
It was Gardner’s first save of the season.
In winning two out of three against Carroll, it assured MA of a spot in the North Half playoffs. Carroll was eliminated from postseason play. A win over Lee (Clarksdale) Monday (of this week) would give the Patriots’ their third consecutive District 1-AA title and also give them a bye during the first week of playoffs. A loss would put them against the third-place team from District 2-AA which would be Leake Academy, Winston Academy or Canton Academy. The third team from District 1-AA is Kirk.
Lewisburg 10 MA 9
Lewisburg came in to Saturday’s game with a 20-5 record and ranked 12th by the Clarion Ledger. The Patriots were looking to make a statement that they could play with the big boys. And that’s what they did.
The Patriots’ bats came out on fire. Childers led off the game with a triple to right field and scored on Bolden’s single. In the second, Gardner continued his torrid hitting as he led off with a double and later scored on Joey Brock’s sacrifice fly.
Lewisburg had scored one run in each of the first two innings as well and after two the score was deadlocked. The score would remain tied until the fifth as senior pitcher Harris Gholson turned in his best performance of the year. Gholson kept his opponent off balance and continually made pitches to get outs when needed.
Gholson went five and a third innings, allowing six hits, walking four and striking out two.
In the fifth, MA struck for six runs off of Lewisburg hurler Aaron Smith. Bolden tripled to lead off the inning and James knocked him in with a single. After Vanderburg reached first after a passed ball on strike three, the Patriots had the table set for a huge inning. Jake Omedeo grounded out, scoring James, and Gardner delivered his third hit of the day which scored MA’s fourth run of the inning. Byrd followed with a triple scoring Gardner. The final run came as Byrd scored as Joey Brock reached on a fielder’s choice.
The Patriots held a commanding 9-2 advantage heading into the bottom of the sixth. That’s when the wheels came off. An error, three walks and a hit batsmen, along with a triple and double. allowed Lewisburg back in the game. After the dust settled MA held only a 9-7 advantage. Four Patriot pitchers toed the rubber in the sixth before James could strike out Dalton Todd to end the inning.
In the seventh, the momentum continued for Lewisburg as Ryan Burchfield led off with a single and Northwest Mississippi Community College signee Chad Wardlaw walked. After the Patriots’ Childers made a highlight reel catch of a foul ball off the bat of Nick Cook, Dylan Castoria singled and Smith was hit by pitch, making the score 9-8. After a strikeout of Aaron Greenwood, the next two batters walked forcing in the tying and winning runs. Lewisburg escaped with a 10-9 victory.
Junior MA pitcher James suffered the loss, dropping to 1-4 on the year.
“When you have an opportunity to knock off one of the top teams in the state, you need to be on top of your game,” Ray said. “For five innings, we were. I felt like in the sixth and seventh, we were playing not to lose instead of playing to win. We are every bit as good as they are; our kids just need to understand that.”
MA stood 17-10 overall and 104 in the district entering a new week.
Schedule this week
MA, after the trip to Lee earlier in the week, plays at St. Georges Thursday and at SBEC Friday.
Dependent upon the outcome Monday of this week vs Lee, the Patriots we could be in the first round of playoffs starting next week or receive a bye. If MA receives a bye, it will play FACS at home on Tuesday.
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