Thursday, April 19, 2012
Six straight for Patriots
By BARRY BURLESON
The Marshall Academy baseball team, bogged down at times in the midst of a rugged schedule, came alive in district play last week.
The Patriots won four district games – three over Kirk Academy and another over Indianola Academy– to claim the school’s sixth straight District 1-AA title.
“I felt I had my team back,” said coach Bart Jenkins, in his second season. “We played great baseball and had great leadership.
“Winning the district championship is truly special. The kids in the past built the foundation, and my kids take a lot of pride in that.”
He said the good times returned for his Pats as they battled through the crucial week of district contests.
“We had some guys step up and be vocal leaders,” Coach Jenkins said. “Two or three took charge of the dugout and helped make it fun. It’s been tense and nerve-wracking at times with the tough schedule. I don’t think we could have had a tougher one.”
The Patriots ended district play at 10-1.
“I’m excited about the way we’re playing right now and I’m excited about the players’ attitudes,” he said after the Kirk series.
MA-Kirk - Game 1
MA went into enemy territory Tuesday of last week and left with a huge 10-3 victory over the rival Raiders to open the series.
“Kirk was very motivated,” Jenkins said. “They were 19-2 and had a huge crowd. We had a choice to make in the first three or four innings of the game to either take the next step or stay where we were. We got it done.
“Winning game one was huge. It’s really hard for the other team to bounce back.”
MA went up 1-0 in the second on Dakota Dailey’s triple down the right field line that scored Vince Hoyt.
The visiting team added two more in the top of the third.
Kirk loaded the bases in the bottom of the third and scored two before Patriot left fielder Devin McGreger dove and snagged a line drive to end the inning.
Marshall stretched its lead to 6-2 in the fourth. Aaron McAlexander and Kevin Fitzpatrick knocked in runs. Another run scored on a passed ball.
The Patriots, leading 7-3, turned a double play to end the bottom of the sixth.
Then in the top of the seventh, MA got four more hits and three more runs to lock down the victory.
The Patriots had 12 hits. McAlexander led the way with three, a double and two singles. Fitzpatrick had a triple and a double and Matt Rappa a double and a single. Elgin Lafever connected for two singles. Tyler Cook added a double.
McAlexander earned the pitching win. He struck out six, walked four and gave up eight hits in seven innings of work.
“He battled,” Jenkins said. “He was like a warrior.”
MA-Kirk - Game 2
The Patriots used the long ball to win game two at home. Fitzpatrick hit a solo home run in the third and Vince Hoyt drilled a two-run homer in the fourth as MA won 4-1.
The Raiders’ lone run came in the top of the first and it was their only lead of the series.
Lafever, who led off the bottom of the first with a hit, later scored to knot the game.
Then came the over-the-fence blasts. Hoyt’s also scored Evan Hickman, who had doubled to lead off the bottom of the fourth.
Kirk never really threatened the rest of the way against Hickman, who was on the mound.
That win clinched the district crown.
“You deserve it,” Jenkins told his team huddled around him at game’s end. “You played hard. I’m very proud of you.”
Hickman, in getting the mound win, struck out six, walked five, gave up four hits and hit one batter.
The Patriots had seven hits – two apiece from Hoyt, Fitzpatrick and Lafever and one from Hickman.
MA committed nine errors in the two games but still won both.
“We made mistakes defensively that we typically don’t make,” Jenkins said, “but when you make the game fun as opposed to always being tense, you overcome those mistakes.”
MA-Kirk - Game 3
Andy Burleson, making his first start of the year on the mound, pitched six and a third innings and got the victory. The MA offense stayed hot, too, collecting 10 hits in the 6-5 win.
Burleson struck out one, walked one, hit a batter and gave up 10 hits. He exited after Kirk’s Chase Carpenter hit a three-run homer in the top of the seventh. Hoyt came on to record the last two outs of the game.
Getting two hits each for the Pats were Jacob McMinn, Fitzpatrick and Hickman. Adding singles were Lafever, McAlexander, Cook and Dailey.
MA made just one error.
The defensive play of the game came in the top of the fifth when center fielder McAlexander caught a line drive for an out and then gunned down a Raider runner trying to tag and score from third. Catcher Colt Lindsey blocked the plate and made the tag.
It was also Senior Night with Cook, McMinn, Hickman, Lafever, Burleson, Fitzpatrick and Cole Davis, along with their parents, being honored.
“This is an extremely special group,” Coach Jenkins said. “These seven kids have done all I’ve asked. It was very emotional for me. And it was uplifting to see them play so well on Senior Night. I don’t want them to graduate. A lot of days, at practice, I don’t want them to go home. They’ve achieved so much – in athletics and in the classroom – since they’ve been at MA. And it’s a great group of parents, too.”
On Monday of last week, the Patriots beat the Colonels in dramatic fashion. They scored a run in the bottom of the seventh to win 3-2.
McMinn led off the seventh with a single. Then Cook walked and Lafever singled to load the bases. Dailey then earned the walk to plate McMinn with the winning run.
MA had five hits, with McMinn getting two of those.
Cook was the winning pitcher. He struck out eight, gave up four hits and walked three.
The Pats left the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh and lost 3-2 to Harding Academy of Memphis, Tenn., Friday night at home.
MA scored one in the last inning to cut the deficit to one and filled the bases with no outs but couldn’t push across the tying or winning runs.
The Patriots left 13 runners stranded in the game.
Rappa topped Marshall’s offense with two hits out of the team’s six.
Fitzpatrick was the losing pitcher. In four innings, he gave up four hits, two runs and six walks, while striking out three.
Hoyt pitched three innings. He gave up four hits and one run and hit a batter.
In its sixth game of the week Saturday at Lafayette, Marshall turned in a lackluster performance and fell 12-0.
The game was basically over after the first inning, when the Commodores sent 13 batters to the plate and scored eight runs on four hits, four walks and two errors.
Defensively, the Patriots made five errors in the game and mustered just two hits offensively.
Lafayette had seven hits and committed no errors.
Tucker Fant took the mound loss. Cook and Lindsey pitched in relief.
The Pats (15-14 overall) get a first-round bye in the Class AA state playoffs. They will face the Oak Hill-Central Hinds winner next week in a three-game series.
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