Thursday, April 29, 2010
MA exits in round one
The baseball season at Marshall Academy came to an abrupt end as the Patriots fell in the first round of the MAIS Class AA playoffs to Hillcrest Christian School.
Each game was a nailbiter, with the final scores being 9-7, 2-1 and 4-3. Neither team was able to win on its home field. Hillcrest advances to face Manchester this week.
MA 9 Hillcrest 7
This would be a wild affair from the first pitch as the Patriots traveled to Hillcrest April 20 to start the playoffs. Marshall would be facing Josh Rogers, a talented left-handed pitcher who will continue his baseball career at the University of Southern Mississippi next year. The Pats made the most of their opportunities and came away with a dramatic come-from-behind 9-7 victory, sparked by Josh Vanderburg’s two-run homer in the top of the seventh.
As the game began, Parker James led off with a single and promptly stole second base. He came around to score on Jake Omedeo’s RBI single to centerfield. Two batters later, John Wesley Ray delivered a two-out double that scored Tyler Childers and Omedeo. Vanderburg followed and was credited with an RBI single as he dropped one in front of the right fielder, scoring Ray. After its first at bat, MA led 4-0.
Hillcrest answered right back off Patriot starting pitcher Will Patton (9-1) with four of its own. After one, the scored was knotted at 4.
In the second, Elgin Lafever reached first on an error and scored on Jake Omedeo’s towering drive to the fence in centerfield. Omedeo ended up with a triple and scored when Joey Omedeo reached on another Cougar error.
Hillcrest again matched the Patriots with two in the bottom of the second and when the dust had cleared, the score was 6-6 after two innings.
Both pitchers settled in and began controlling the batters to start the third inning. Rogers struck out 11 of the next 12 batters he faced. Patton retired six of seven Hillcrest batters after the second inning but ran into trouble in the bottom of the fifth. Caleb Baucum crushed a lead-off double to deep center field followed by Austin Hartzog’s infield single. After Hartzog stole second, designated hitter Thomas Woodruff laid down a textbook bunt to score Baucum and give Hillcrest its first lead of the game at 7-6. Patton controlled the damage as the senior struck out two batters to end the inning.
The game would remain in the Cougars’ favor until the top of the seventh. Jake Omedeo drew a walk to start the inning. Sophomore Andy Burleson replaced Omedeo as a pinch runner at first base and a well-executed bunt from Joey Omedeo moved Burleson into scoring position at second. A third strike pitch to Ray was dropped by the Hillcrest catcher and the freshman’s throw to first base was high and rolled into right field, scoring Burleson from second base to tie the game at 7-7. Up stepped Vanderburg, a junior, who nailed the first pitch over the right field wall for a dramatic two-run blast to give Marshall a 9-7 lead.
Patton finished the game by striking out the side and ending any hopes Hillcrest had of rallying. He would finish with 14 strikeouts.
“That was an incredible game,” coach Johnny Ray said. “It just shows you the determination that these kids have. Will battled and battled all game long. He has matured so much on the mound. Josh’s homer was clutch. It couldn’t have come at a better time. I am so proud for him because he works so hard.”
Hillcrest 2 MA 1
Returning home and facing another talented Division 1 signee, Marshall would give opposing pitcher Hartzog all he wanted, but the Ole Miss signee got the breaks when needed and escaped with a 2-1 win to force a game three.
Marshall got on the board in the second as Jake Omedeo walked and advance to second on a wild pitch. Joey Omedeo delivered a single into right field placing runners at the corners. Hartzog struck the next two batters out but freshman Aaron McAlexander delivered an infield single to push a run across.
James was masterful on the mound for MA. He didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning and kept the Cougars off the scoreboard until the sixth. Three Patriot miscues allowed Rogers to score the tying run in the sixth and another error allowed the winning run to score with two out in the top of the seventh.
Leading off the bottom of the seventh, Vanderburg drew a walk and was sacrificed to second by Ray. As Vanderburg reached second he realized no Cougar defender was at third so he advanced. Recognizing the base runner headed toward third, several Cougars converged on the bag. First baseman Baucum, who was in possession of the ball, tossed it to a back peddling Hartzog as Vanderburg approached the bag. The ball squirted away and Vanderburg never slowed down, rounding third looking to tie the score. The umpire, rotating to make the impending call at the bag, inadvertently collided with Vanderburg, who stumbled but continued toward the plate. Hartzog recovered the ball and threw a strike to Rogers at the plate who applied the tag to the sliding Vanderburg. It was pure chaos.
“What an unfortunate turn of events,” Coach Ray said. “How do you penalize a kid that hustles and gives you everything he has? That was just a crazy play that you can not prepare for. The ball just bounced their way.”
James (6-2) suffered the loss on the mound but turned in a gutsy performance. He struck out four, walked three and scattered three hits.
“In my opinion Parker out-pitched the hyped Division 1 signee,” Coach Ray said. “He pitched on heart and desire and gave us an opportunity to win.”
Hartzog struck out 11 and surrendered four hits, two coming off the bat of McAlexander.
Hillcrest 4 MA 3
Marshall looked to rebound from the heart-breaking loss in the opener came out flat and eventually saw their season end with a 4-3 loss to the Cougars.
Marshall trailed 1-0 heading into the bottom of the third. The Pats loaded the bases with no outs as McAlexander had singled to start the frame, Caleb Byrd followed with a walk and James reached on an error. But, as had been the case all day, HCS got the breaks when needed. Baucum, the pitcher, field a grond ball and started the 1-2-3 double play. Marshall would settle for one run as Byrd scored later in the inning.
“Everything seemed to be in our favor in that situation and then Hillcrest got the double play,” Coach Ray said.
Finding themselves trailing 4-1 heading into their final at bat, the Patriots mounted a rally. Byrd reached on error and scored two batters later on Lafever’s single to left field. After a walk to Childers put the tying run on base, another Cougar error off the bat of Jake Omedeo allowed Lafever to score and place runners at first and second. But, a ground ball out ended the game and the season.
Joey Brock went the distance on the mound for the Patriots, striking out four.
“This was a great season and a great group of kids to work with,” Coach Ray said. “They improved so much over the course of the season and gave me everything they had. They kept their minds on the tasks at hand and didn’t let outside distractions bother them”
The Patriots end the season at 27-7, tying the school record for wins in a season.
James was named District 1-AA Most Valuable Player and is guaranteed a spot in the MAIS All-Star Game to be held at Trustmark Park in Pearl on Saturday May 29. The senior finished with a team-leading .402 batting average was successful in 24 of 25 stolen base attempts. He was also 6-2 on the mound with a 1.30 earned run average. He struck out 57 batters in 48 1/3 innings pitched on the season, issuing only 16 walks.
“Parker deserves every accolade he gets,” Coach Ray said. “Coaching players like him is very enjoyable. He may not be the most talented kid but at the end of the day you know that he has put everything he has into it. That makes it worth to me as a coach.”
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