Thursday, May 10, 2012
A Louisiana celebration
By BARRY BURLESON
The stay in Monroe, La., Thursday was a bit longer than Marshall Academy had hoped. But it proved to be worth the wait.
After two baseball games, totaling 15 innings and six hours, the Patriots celebrated a Class AA North State championship on the opponent’s field.
“It was a grind,” coach Bart Jenkins said. “The players, fans, coaches – all were exhausted.”
MA had won game one of the series Monday, April 30, at home. Game two started at 4:30 p.m. Thursday on the campus of River Oaks School, five hours from Holly Springs. It went into extra innings with the Pats suffering a one-run loss. After a 30-minute break, game three started at 8 p.m. and ended close to 11 p.m.
“Knowing the situation we created (with the game-two loss), I felt confident my kids would find a way to get it done,” Jenkins said. “That’s our reputation.
“Game three was a complete team win. We were playing in adverse conditions, with a hostile crowd, and facing a very motivated team in River Oaks that doesn’t like to lose.
“I could not be prouder of a team. They battled and overcame obstacles. It’s a great feeling.”
Marshall did all its scoring in two innings and downed the Mustangs 6-2 at Patriot Field.
The Pats got one in the first inning. Kevin Fitzpatrick’s double scored Aaron McAlexander, who had also doubled.
They added five in the third to go up 6-0.
McAlexander started the big inning with a hit, his seventh double in three games. Fitzpatrick got an infield hit and Matt Rappa was hit by a pitch. Evan Hickman tripled to clear the bases.
After Vince Hoyt reached on a fielder’s choice, Jacob McMinn connected for a hit up the middle and two runs-batted-in.
River Oaks got one in the top of the fourth and another in the fifth.
“Winning the first game of the series, when you know the next two will be on the road, is huge,” Jenkins said. “We played well.”
MA had 10 hits. Leading the attack were McAlexander and Fitzpatrick, each with two doubles and a single. McMinn had two singles. Elgin Lafever and Hickman had a hit apiece.
McAlexander was strong again in earning the mound win. He gave up five hits, struck out six and walked three.
The Mustangs stayed alive in the series by winning 4-3 in the bottom of the eighth.
The three-hour, extra-inning marathon Thursday at River Oaks had a bit of everything. Both teams squandered scoring opportunities.
“I thought we played well but just fell short,” Coach Jenkins said.
The Mustangs scored one in the first and another in the second to go up 2-0.
They loaded the bases in the third but MA got out of the inning thanks to a double play turned by second baseman Dakota Dailey, shortstop Fitzpatrick and first baseman Hoyt.
The Patriots got their first run in the top of the fifth when Hoyt, who doubled to left-center field, later scored on an error. MA also got hits in the inning from McMinn, Dailey and Lafever but couldn’t produce more runs.
Marshall tied the game at 2 in the sixth. McAlexander scored after leading off the inning with a single.
The Pats then went up 3-2 in their half of the seventh. Tyler Cook reached on an error. Lafaver drove in the go-ahead run with a double down the left-field line.
But the Mustangs did not quit. They tied in the bottom of the seventh, after a hit batsman, a double and an error.
In the extra inning, MA got two runners on but could not score. River Oaks then loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth and scored the winning run on a walk.
Marshall had nine hits and the Mustangs 10.
Getting two each for the Patriots were Lafever, Hoyt and McMinn. McAlexander, Hickman and Dailey each had a single.
Hickman pitched six and and two-thirds innings. Fitzpatrick threw one and a third and took the loss.
The Patriots, tired and a bit dejected after the game two setback, did not stay down long. They took a 2-0 lead in the first inning of game three and went on to win 6-4.
“The kids responded well,” Jenkins said. “We had a senior (Cook) on the mound who was on a mission. We struggled hitting the ball but when the odds are stacked against us, we seem to give maximun effort.
“Our seniors (Lafever, McMinn, Hickman, Cook, Fitzpatrick, Andy Burleson and Cole Davis) deserve a lot of the credit. Their leadership is outstanding.”
In the first, the Pats pieced together four walks, a hit and a fielder’s-choice grounder to go up by two.
They got another run in the top of the third. Hickman’s hit scored Fitzpatrick, who had a walk.
Cook faced just four batters in the first, three in the second and four in the third.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Mustangs tied the game at 3 on two hits and a pair of errors.
MA quickly grabbed the momentum back. Hoyt slapped a hit up the middle in the top of the fifth and it scored two runs.
River Oaks put runners on second and third in the bottom of the fifth with two outs. That’s when MA right fielder McMinn had the defensive play of the game, a diving catch of a line drive that prevented both runners from scoring.
Neither team scored in the sixth.
The Pats added one in the seventh. Hoyt again came through with the clutch hit. His double off the bottom of the center field fence scored Hickman. The lead was 6-3.
River Oaks scored a run in the bottom of the seventh – a solo homer.
The last out came when the pitcher, Cook, fielded a grounder and threw to first baseman Hoyt.
Marshall had just four hits – two of those from Hoyt. River Oaks had six.
Cook struck out four and walked three and got some good defense behind him to record the mound win.
“I’m the happiest man on the face of the earth,” Jenkins told his team after the on-the-field celebration and trophy presentation. “We’re two wins away from a state championship.”
The Patriots upped their season record to 19-15. They face South champion Centreville Academy (25-5) this week for all the marbles in Class AA.
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