Thursday, April 23, 2009
Patriots win district championship
The Marshall Academy baseball team went into enemy territory last week and wrapped up its third straight district crown.
The Patriots receive a first-round bye and will open playoff action next week in the quarter-finals.
MA 5 Lee 3
With the District 1-AA championship on the line, Marshall traveled to Clarksdale April 14 to face the Lee Colts.
The winner of this contest would earn the district title and receive an all-important bye in the upcoming North Half playoffs. The loser would face Winston Academy, the number three seeded team from District 2-AA. Marshall entered with a 10-4 record in conference and Lee a 9-4 mark.
The Patriots sent ace right-hander Chris Gardner to the mound. The senior responded with possibly his best performance of the season, coach Johnny Ray said.
He went the distance allowing three earned runs to a solid Colt offense. Gardner was in control from the first pitch to the last, allowing only a second inning run and two in the sixth and also received some offensive support from the Patriot bats. He struck out seven, walked one, allowed four hits and threw only 90 pitches. His season record stands at 4-2 with a 2.55 earned run average.
“That’s what the leader of your pitching staff is supposed to do,” Ray said. “When you have a big game that needs to be won, you give him the ball and let him go to work. Chris was fantastic throughout the entire game. He had been in that situation before with all the big games he won last year.”
Gardner would receive some offensive support in the fourth as the Patriots trailed 1-0. MA benefitted from Colt starter Tony Antici’s inability to throw strikes. Antici had cruised through the first three innings, facing the minimum. But, with one out in the fourth, Josh Vanderburg singled. One batter later Parker James singled as well. Back to back walks to Jake Omedeo and Gardner with two outs forced home the tying run. After a pitching change, Caleb Byrd greeted Garrett Radiciono’s first pitch with a sharp single up the middle to score two runs. Marshall led 3-1
“Caleb’s hit really swung the momentum in our favor,” Ray said. “I knew that if we could get Chris a couple of runs that we would have a good shot to win. That was a big at bat.”
In the fifth,Vanderburg singled with one out bringing senior Hunter Bolden to the plate. Bolden delivered a clutch two-run homer on a 3-1 pitch to expand the lead to 5-1.
“Hunter did exactly what your supposed to do in that situation,” Ray said. “He was sitting on that 3-1 fastball and he didn’t miss it.”
The Colts responded in the sixth. Lead-off batter Blake Hester drew a walk to start the frame and Taylor Tidwell followed with a two run shot to close the gap to 5-3.
That would be the final as Gardner retired the next six Colt batters in order, striking out the final two.
Vanderburg led the Pats’ eight hit attack with a three for four performance. James was the only other player with multiple hits with a pair of singles.
“I am proud for the kids to get that third straight district title,” Ray said. “We have faced some adversity throughout the season, but that is where the hard work they have put in pays off. I feel we are primed for a good run through the playoffs.”
MA 15 St George’s 5
Sophomore Joey Brock improved to 5-1 on the year as he battled through five innings to get the win in the run rule shortened game.
The Patriot bats were hot Thursday on the road as they pounded out 12 hits and scored multiple runs in the second fourth and fifth innings.
In the second inning. James, Jake Omedeo, Gardner, Byrd and Joey Omedeo each singled in succession to start the inning. A total of 11 batters came to the plate. After the dust had settled MA led 5-0.
In the fourth inning, the Patriots scored three more runs. St George’s pitchers loaded the bases on three walks to Vanderburg, Bolden and James. Jake Omedeo followed with a two RBI single and Gardner knocked in James with a single as well.
After the Gryphons scored four runs in the fourth to close the gap to 8-5, MA erupted for seven runs to command a comfortable 15-5 advantage. Joey Omedeo tripled to start the inning. After a pair of walks loaded the bases, Bolden was hit by pitch to score Omedeo. James reached on an error extending the inning and giving the Pats a 10-5 lead. Jake Omedeo delivered a triple that scored two runs. Byrd, Joey Omedeo and freshman Elgin Lafever had singles that scored a run each to close out the scoring.
Brock retired the Gryphons in order in the fifth to secure the victory. For the contest, he struck out five and allowed four hits.
“When we swing the bats like we did tonight we are tough to beat,” Ray said. “Our batters went to the plate with a good approach and worked the count until they got a pitch they could handle.”
The five through eight hitters were a combined 10 for 15 for MA. Joey Omedeo had his best offensive output of the spring going three for four with three RBIs. Jake Omedeo was also three for four and had four RBIs. Gardner and Byrd each had two hits.
“Both Jake and Joey have made huge contributions down the stretch for us,” Ray said. “When we can get production like that from them it really makes our lineup potent. Chris and Caleb have really come on strong as well.”
SBEC 7 Marshall 4
In a lethargic effort on the Patriots’ part, MA managed only five hits and walked 13 batters in losing to the Trojans Friday. The Patriots scored a single run in the third and fifth and two unearned runs in the sixth.
“I just don’t understand this team,” Ray said. “We played awesome against Lee and St. George’s and come out and lay an egg against SBEC. We just can’t get to a good level of consistency.”
Marshall definitely had its chances. The Pats, playing on the road, held a 4-3 advantage headed into the bottom of the sixth. Three walks and a single off of reliever Jordan Brock gave the Trojans the lead at 5-4. The nail in the coffin came when SBEC doubled in two runners off of Gardner, who had entered with two outs.
“Bottom line is we had our chances but didn’t capitalize,” Ray said. “We just beat ourselves and that can’t happen as we enter the next phase of our season.”
Byrd had two of the Pats’ five hits, including a double, and two runs scored.
Marshall’s overall record is 19-11.
The Patriots will host Magnolia Heights on Friday at 5 p.m. This will be the last regular season game and will also be “Senior Night.” Marshall will be recognizing seniors Hunter Bolden, Chris Gardner and Harris Gholson.
MA will host the winner of the Kirk-Canton series in the state playoffs on Tuesday, April 28. All playoff formats are the best two out of three.
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