Thursday, May 5, 2011
MA goes to final four
By BARRY BURLESON
Marshall Academy took different approaches with the same results in its second round playoff series versus Hillcrest Christian.
The Patriots got all their runs in the first inning of game one and hung on for the win. Then they rallied in the last inning of game two for a victory.
“The kids gave an excellent effort,” head coach Bart Jenkins said. “They’re playing as a team, and the program is getting a lot of support from the administration, the Booster Club and the fans. Everyone is buying in.
“I’m proud of this team. They’re not just winning, but they’ve eliminated a lot of selfishness. This team is special when they play together as a team – all 23 of them.”
MA (24-10) advances to the Class AA state semi-finals this week versus Simpson Academy.
“Simpson is a quality team,” he said. “I know they will play extremely hard, and we will get their best.”
The south half of the bracket will be a three-game series between Centreville Academy and Central Private.
The biggest blow of the game came in the bottom of the first when Kevin Fitzpatrick connected for a two-run homer that sailed well over the left field fence. The Patriots won 3-1 at home Thursday evening.
“Kevin’s home run was huge in a playoff setting,” Jenkins said. “He has been an offensive fireplug all year.”
Elgin Lafever led off the game with a hit. Aaron McAlexander reached on a fielder’s choice with Lafever getting forced out at second base. Fitzpatrick’s blast scored McAlexander, too. Matt Rappa singled and went to second and then to third on pitches that got by the Hillcrest catcher. Josh Vanderburg then knocked in the third run on a ground ball to the right side of the infield.
Marshall had just two more hits in the game – another by Rappa and a single by Hunter Vanderburg.
Joey Brock pitched six plus innings. The winning pitcher struck out nine, gave up just three hits and walked three (two in the seventh).
“It was a fantastic outing by Joey,” Jenkins said.
Evan Hickman entered with two men on in the seventh and got the save. The first out came on a sacrifice bunt that pushed runners to second and third. The next Cougar at the plate popped up to second baseman Dakota Dailey. Hickman walked one and then got another pop-out to Dailey to set off a celebration.
MA ended the top of the second with a strikeout and throw-out. Brock fanned a Cougar and then catcher J. Vanderburg gunned down a Hillcrest player trying to steal second.
Brock had big strikeouts to end both the top of the fourth and the fifth. Fitzpatrick made a dazzling defensive play in the fifth – back-handing a ground ball in the hole and throwing a one-hopper to first for the out.
Brock also got three-up and three-down in the seventh.
The Vanderburg brothers turned out to be the big story in a dramatic 6-3 win Thursday at Hillcrest to clinch the series in two straight games.
J. Vanderburg drilled a double down the left-field line in the last inning to plate the tying and go-ahead runs. Then H. Vanderburg sealed the deal in the bottom of the seventh with two strikeouts and a groundout.
“In big games, Josh has come through this year,” Jenkins said. “Hunter was lights out. He has more focus and more poise on the mound than your typical sophomore.”
The Patriots were down 3-2 going into the seventh. Fitzpatrick walked and Rappa followed with a hit. Both runners then moved to second and third, in scoring position for Josh Vanderburg’s huge hit.
Then Jacob McMinn followed with a clutch bunt to score J. Vanderburg.
McMinn later scored when Hillcrest committed an error on a ground ball from the bat of H. Vanderburg.
“In the seventh, the kids just determined ‘hey, we’re going to win this game,’” Jenkins said. “They relaxed and got the job done. They showed a lot of confidence.”
The Patriots had seven hits and committed two errors.
Lafever had singles in the first and third innings. Chad Mitchell had a hit in the second inning. Rappa had a hit and RBI in the fifth to knot the game at 1.
The other three hits came in the all-important seventh.
McAlexander started on the mound for the Patriots and pitched five innings. He struck out three, gave up four hits and walked four.
The Cougars committed four errors.
H. Vanderburg earned the mound win, pitching the sixth and seventh and recording six up and six down. The outs came three groundouts, one pop-up and two strikeouts.
Twelve Patriots played in the game two victory.
The north half title series was slated to start Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Simpson. Game two is set for 4 p.m. Thursday in Holly Springs with game three to follow if needed.
“The whole thing is weather pending,” Coach Jenkins said.
The winner moves on to the state championship series.
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