Thursday, May 7, 2009
Canton ousts Marshall
Heading into the second round of the Mississippi Private School Association Class AA playoffs, Marshall Academy sported a 20-12 record.
Their opponent, Canton, came in with a 15-10 record after ousting Kirk Academy in the first round.
“These were two pretty evenly matched teams,” said Johnny Ray, head coach of the Patriots. “Both have some good athletes and both teams played extremely hard. It was a shame one of us had to lose the series.”
Unfortunately, it was the Patriots, as Canton won both of their games in the best-of-three series at Patriot Field, ending MA’s season.
Canton 5 Marshall 1
In game one at Marshall, the Patriots had the Panthers on the ropes several times but couldn’t muster any more than a single run in the first inning. The Patriots left the bases loaded in the first and left two more in scoring position in the second.
“To me, that was the difference,” Ray said. “If we can push a couple of those runs across, their pitcher doesn’t get in a groove and all of a sudden, they have to start playing from behind.”
Canton’s Madison Upshaw fired a complete game three hitter at the Patriots, allowing no earned runs. Upshaw kept MA off balance with an assortment of curve balls and well spotted fastballs.
“He did a good job of keeping us off stride,” Ray said. “He competed.”
Upshaw walked four, hit two and struck out eight
Canton scored two in the second, another in the third and two more in the fifth.
Ray said Marshall pitcher Chris Gardner hit four batters, and three of the four eventually scored.
“Chris is not afraid to pitch inside; he just has to have a little better control,” he said. “He has hit more batters than walks this year.”
For the game, Gardner went seven innings, striking out eight and scattering six hits. He walked none.
Tyler Childers, Josh Vanderburg and Parker James each had a single for the Patriots.
MA 12 Canton 6
Game two moved to Canton and it was an exciting game for those who made the trip. The Patriots had their backs against the wall, knowing that a loss would end their season. They came out swinging, touching Panther starter Stuart Smith for four runs in the first three innings.
Childers and Caleb Byrd led off the game with back-to-back singles. One batter later, James plated Childers on a ground out to second base.
In the second, Gardner was hit by pitch to start the frame. Jake Omedeo followed with a single. An error by shortstop Davin Riebock allowed the Patriots’ second run to score and Childers knocked in Elgin Lafever with the third run with a single to left.
The Panthers fought back with two runs in the second off of Patriot starter Joey Brock. But back-to-back great plays by Childers and Hunter Bolden limited the damage, according to Ray.
With one run already in, Canton’s Kyle Ramsey stepped to the plate and sent a towering shot to left center field. Bolden retreated to the fence went up and robbed Ramsey of a two run home run. Not to be outdone, Childers snagged a line drive off the bat of Kyle Warren on the next play. The ball off the bat was headed to left field. Childers made a running dive, headed away from the infield, of a ball that was at least 10 foot off the ground.
“I have been around this game for a long time and on several different levels,” Ray said. “That play by Childers was certainly one of the best. If you didn’t see it live you will never understand how tough a play that was. It was just pure athleticism. It also overshadowed Hunter’s, which was incredible.”
With the momentum from the plays swung back to the Patriots’ side, Bolden led off the top of the third with a solo home run to stretch the margin back to 4-2.
After a scoreless fourth and fifth for MA and Canton closing the gap to 4-3, Marshall scratched for a run in the top of the sixth. Joey Omedeo doubled and scored on Byrd’s single.
If the excitement from earlier in the game wasn’t enough, the seventh would be a nail biter. What would have been a routine ground ball out off the bat of Canton’s Jeffrey Davis for the first out of the seventh hit something just before going into Byrd’s glove and bounced directly over his head. The next batter was Ramsey, who was hit by pitch, and the Panthers were in business.
Ray changed pitchers, removing Joey Brock in favor of his brother Jordan. Two batters later and two walks on nine pitches and Canton trailed 5-4 with none out and the bases loaded.
Ray went back to the staff ace, Gardner on one day’s rest. A wild pitch plated the tying run but then he found a way to get out of it. A foiled suicide squeeze and two strikeouts sent the game to extra innings.
In the eighth, the Patriots took advantage of the situation. Gardner doubled, followed by a walk to Jake Omedeo. Joey Omedeo and Lafever followed with singles to put the Pats up 7-5. Childers launched a three-run homer to give MA a 10-5 advantage. Byrd walked, stole second and scored on James single. After an infield error by the Panthers, Jake Omedeo singled home the 12th run.
Gardner picked up the win in relief to improve his season record to 6-3.
“Wow is about all I can say,” Ray said. “I am so proud of Chris and the desire he showed in the seventh. I hated to bring him in on short rest but he told us he wanted the ball. It was either bring him in or our season would have been over. If we were going to get beat, I wanted the ball in his hands. He deserved that chance.”
Canton 11 MA 7
With excitement from the night before still in the air, the same two teams returned to Patriot Field for the rubber match.
MA took over where they left off by scoring six runs in the first two innings. Problem was, the Panthers struck for 10 runs in the second. With the Patriots’ Will Patton on the mound after a scoreless first, Canton got every break imaginable. Only one ball cleanly left the infield but somehow they still managed to send 16 batters to the plate in the frame.
When the dust settled, the Patriots faced an uphill battle. They responded with a five-run second inning to close the gap to 10-6. A double by Gardner to lead off the inning and singles by Joey Omedeo and Lafever set the table. With the score 10-3, Bolden laced a double off the top of the fence in right field to score two more. Vanderburg got the sixth run across with a single.
The game would remain 10-6 until Marshall scored a run in the fifth. The Patriots loaded the bases with no outs thanks to walks to Jake and Joey Omedeo and a single by Lafever. But, MA could manage only one run out of the inning and it came with two outs after Bolden had been hit by pitch.
“That was our chance,” Ray said. “If we have another big inning there we probably win. We had the top of our lineup up and just couldn’t get it done.”
Jordan Brock responded from his game one outing and turned in a great performance in relief of Patton on the mound. He went five and a third innings, allowing one unearned run while allowing three hits.
“He gave us a chance to get back in it,” Ray said.
Canton advances to face Lee (Clarksdale) for the Class AA North Half championship. The winner of that series will take on the Central Private-Copiah winner from the South for the state championship.
MA finishes at 21-14.
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