Thursday, April 30, 2009
Patriots begin state title quest
The Marshall Academy baseball team wrapped up the regular season at 20-12 and entered the Class AA state playoff quarter-finals this week.
Marshall 6 FACS 5
With a bye during the first round of Mississippi Private School Association playoffs, MA entertained First Assembly Christian School from Cordova, Tenn., April 14.
The Patriots came away with a 6-5 come-from-behind victory to improve to 20-11 on the year.
FACS jumped to a 2-0 lead on starter Chris Gardner in the first inning. The Crusaders had the table set for a big inning, but first baseman Jake Omedeo started a double play that would limit the damage.
Caleb Byrd got the Patriots on the board in the second as he singled home Parker James.
In the sixth, trailing 3-2, James led off with a single and Omedeo was hit by a pitch. Gardner helped his own cause with a towering home run that stayed just inside the foul pole in left field. Gardner’s blow came on a 1-2 pitch after he had fouled off a couple pitches.
“Chris has really come on strong the last couple of weeks at the plate,” coach Johnny Ray said. “He has made some adjustments and has really balanced out our lineup.”
In the seventh, the Crusaders had a single, double and an error by the Patriots to start the inning. A sacrifice fly tied the score at five with one out. With Gardner still pitching, he bore down and got a strikeout and groundout to halt the rally.
In the bottom of the seventh, Hunter Bolden singled with one out and advanced to second on a wild pitch. One batter later, Omedeo hit a slicing line drive to right field that was misplayed by the Crusaders, allowing Bolden to score the winning run.
“I told the kids, we have several breaks that went the other teams’ way this year,” Ray said. “It was good to see the ball bounce our way for a change.”
Gardner earned the mound victory for MA, improving his record to 5-2. He scattered seven hits, walked one and struck out four.
“Chris was not as sharp as he has been in recent weeks but he still battled through it and gave us a chance to win,” Ray said. “He got the big outs when he really needed them.”
Marshall registered seven hits with no player having more than one. Joey Omedeo had a double and run scored. Elgin Lafever also had a single and two stolen bases.
Chiefs 14 Patriots 9
It was senior night at Patriot Field Friday. Seniors Hunter Bolden, Chris Gardner and Harris Gholson were playing in their final regular season home game.
Magnolia Heights was the opponent and the rival spoiled the night with a 14-9 win. The Patriots end the regular season with a 20-12 record. They now move on to the state playoffs where they will play Canton in a best-of-three series this week.
Magnolia pounded out 13 hits in the contest.
“They may be the best hitting team we have faced all year,” Ray said. “They don’t have an easy out in their lineup.”
Marshall matched the Chiefs offensively as the score was 7-6 after two innings of play. Tyler Childers, with the aid of new contacts, sparked the Patriot offense, getting two hits in his first two at bats and also delivering an RBI and scoring two runs.
“I am glad to see Tyler come around,” Ray said. “He has not been his normal self for most of the season. I am glad he got this corrected before the playoffs start. We need his production, for sure”
Bolden also had a pair of hits and an RBI in his first two at bats. Catcher Josh Vanderburg had a double and two RBIs in the first two innings. Jake Omedeo and James each added RBIs on ground ball outs as well.
Gholson started on the mound. He was relieved after two-thirds of an inning by Joey Brock, who threw for one and two-thirds.
Jordan Brock and Will Patton were the most effective Patriot pitchers against the potent Chief bats, Ray said. Jordan Brock allowed two runs, only one of which was earned, in two and two-thirds innings and Patton allowed one run in two innings, striking out three.
“This team desperately needs both of them to pitch well in the playoffs,” Ray said. “They have two totally different pitching styles that can give other teams fits. They have been very effective for us in spots this year. If they can compete and throw consistent strikes they are going to do well.”
Marshall tallied 12 hits. Childers and Bolden each turned in three for four efforts. Byrd added a double and Lafever and Gardner had RBI singles.
The Patriots are taking part in the second round of the playoffs this week. Their opponent, Canton Academy, was the number two seed from District 2-AA and eliminated Kirk Academy from the playoffs in three games. Kirk won game one 12-2, but the Panthers responded by winning the final two 4-1 and 4-0.
Game one was played Monday at Marshall. Game two will be Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Canton. If game three is necessary, it will be played at Patriot Field Thursday at 6 p.m.
The winner faces either Manchester or Lee (Clarksdale) next week for the North Half crown in the state semi-finals.
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