Thursday, May 3, 2012
MA advances to state semi-finals
By BARRY BURLESON
Marshall Academy put Oak Hill “behind the eight ball” with a 10-run win in game one of their playoff series.
Then the Patriots almost let a six-run lead slip away in game two but hung on to sweep the Raiders.
They had 21 hits in the two games – 14 of those at West Point to start the series in fine fashion.
“Offensively, we can be real dynamic,” coach Bart Jenkins said about the April 24 road game. “We were a lot more focused than we have been all year. Our mental preparation was excellent.
“The bye week (in round one) gave us several days to prepare for a really good pitcher (Dandy Dozen player Jacob Shempert).”
There were several offensive stars for the Patriots last week but none shined brighter than Aaron McAlexander. He was six of eight in the two games with five consecutive doubles and a grand slam. He had eight runs-batted-in.
“Aaron has a great ability to swing the bat,” Jenkins said. “His confidence and focus were so much better than they have been all year.”
Leadoff man Elgin Lafever, who bats in front of McAlexander, had six hits.
“When he gets on, we’re a lot better ball club,” Jenkins said.
Next up for Marshall is the North State championship series versus River Oaks, La. MA hosted the Mustangs for game one Monday. They will play at River Oaks Thursday for games two and three (if needed).
The MA bats were on fire from the start as the Patriots pounded Oak Hill 12-2 in the all-important game one.
Four of MA’s 14 hits came in the first inning off Shempert.
Lafever led off with a single, followed by McAlexander’s double. Kevin Fitzpatrick got a hit and run-batted-in, and Evan Hickman had a single and one RBI.
The Patriots took control early – going up 3-0 – and proceeded to score in every other inning, too. Their leads after each at-bat, in the second through sixth innings, were 4-0, 5-0, 8-1, 10-2 and 12-2.
McAlexander was the main man – at the plate and on the mound. The junior had four doubles and knocked in four runs. He pitched five innings and earned the mound win. He struck out seven, walked six and gave up four hits.
Lafever also had four hits, all singles. Hickman stroked a double and a single, and Dakota Dailey had two singles. Fitzpatrick and Tyler Cook had a hit apiece.
Cole Davis pitched the sixth for MA. He struck out two and walked two.
The game ended early due to the 10-run rule.
The Patriots looked to be in control and then escaped with an 8-7 win Friday in game two to wrap up the quarter-final series.
Oak Hill loaded the bases in the top of the first but did not score, thanks to first baseman Vince Hoyt’s triple play. He caught a line drive for one out, and with runners leaving their bags, stepped on first for another out and threw to second for another.
McAlexander ripped his fifth straight double in the bottom of the first but MA did not score.
Each team scored two runs in the third.
Marshall then went up 8-2 in the top of the fourth. Jacob McMinn was hit by a pitch and Cook and Dailey followed with singles. Lafever got a hit and RBI before McAlexander, with the bases loaded, drilled his homer over the right field fence. Fitzpatrick was hit by a pitch and swiped second and third before Matt Rappa knocked him home.
But the Raiders responded with five runs in the top of the fifth and still had the bases loaded when Shempert hit a fly ball almost to the fence in center field that was caught by McAlexander.
“We battled through some adversity and that’s what good teams do,” Jenkins said.
“We were about to 10-run them again and then some bad circumstances happened. That’s baseball. But if we’re going to win a championship, we can’t have that one bad inning.”
MA’s bats were quiet in the fifth and sixth.
Oak Hill got a runner on base in both the top of the sixth and seventh, but could not tie the game.
It ended when Dailey fielded a grounder at short and threw to a stretching Hoyt at first for the out.
MA had seven hits and committed three errors. Getting two hits each were Lafever, McAlexander and Dailey.
Hickman got the pitching win. He gave up four hits, struck out four, issued one base on balls and hit six batters.
Fitzpatrick, who took the mound with two outs in the fifth, picked up the save. He struck out three, walked one and gave up no hits.
MA’s overall record, entering the semi-finals this week, is 17-14. The winner of the Marshall-River Oaks series will face the South State winner – either Brookhaven or Centreville – in a best two-of-three series next week for the Class AA state title.
“You have a tremendous opportunity to win the school’s first state championship in baseball,” Coach Jenkins told his team after sweeping Oak Hill. “But right now, all of our attention must be on River Oaks. We have to win the North first. We must focus on the task ahead this week and take care of business.”
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