A happy group of Patriots all got the feel of a second straight North State championship trophy Thursday.
But this Marshall Academy baseball team hopes to touch a first this week.
“You can say, ‘I am a champion,’ ” coach Bart Jenkins told his Pats, “but now you have the opportunity to do something that has never been done here. I hope you want a little bit more.”
MA downed Central Hinds 6-4 and 9-3 last week for the North title and improved to 20-11 on the season.
This week the Patriots will go for the school’s first ever state championship in baseball. The opponent is South Half champion Central Private (27-4).
“We’re so close to being where we need to be,” Jenkins said to his squad after the game two win over Central Hinds to clinch that series. “The effort is definitely there. We just have to improve on the execution.”
North Half, game one
Von Watson’s two-run homer in the top of the sixth inning won it for the Patriots Monday of last week in Raymond. It broke a 4-4 deadlock.
Pitcher Aaron McAlexander retired six straight Central Hinds batters after Watson’s homer as MA hung on to win 6-4.
McAlexander (3-0 in the playoffs and 10-1 on the season) gave up just four hits over seven innings of work. He struck out five, walked two, hit one batter and gave up only one earned run.
The Patriots pulled ahead 4-0 in their half of the third inning. The Cougars got two in the bottom of the third and added two more in the fourth to tie the contest.
McAlexander worked his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth and then Watson provided the heroics in the sixth.
Seven different Patriots collected a hit in the game.
Getting two hits each were Devin McGreger, Chance Lykens and McAlexander.
“Winning game one on the road is always huge,” Coach Jenkins said.
North Half, game two
McAlexander, Matt Rappa and Vince Hoyt combined for eight runs-batted-in Thursday at home as MA eliminated Central Hinds 9-3 and claimed the North title.
Meanwhile, pitcher Matt Miller improved to 3-0 in the playoffs and 4-2 on the season. He struck out four, gave up six hits and walked two.
The Patriots went up 3-0 in the bottom of the first.
Dakota Dailey led off with a single and McAlexander walked. Hoyt doubled to score both base-runners. Later, Rappa’s double scored Hoyt.
The Cougars scratched back in the top of the third, thanks to Jake Hale’s two-run homer.
The visitors then tied it with one run in the top of the third, courtesy of MA’s only error in the game.
Marshall then did some major damage in the bottom of the fourth – all with two outs.
Colt Lindsey got things started with a single to right field. Dailey was hit by a pitch. McAlexander doubled down the right-field line, scoring Lindsey and Dailey. Hoyt earned a walk, then Watson was intentionally walked to load the bases. McAlexander scored on a wild pitch. Then Rappa came through in the clutch, drilling a hit to right-center field to score Hoyt and Watson. MA had stormed ahead 8-3.
The Pats added some insurance in the bottom of the sixth. McAlexander launched a solo home run over the center-field wall.
Miller had three-up, three-down innings in the fourth and fifth and faced just four batters in both the sixth and seventh.
MA had 10 hits, led by two each from McAlexander, Hoyt and Rappa.
“This team deserves this shot at the state championship,” Coach Jenkins said.
“I said early in the season this group had the chance to be a very good offensive team. We’re definitely hitting the ball hard, but maybe more importantly, we’re stealing bases. Base-running is huge for us.”
Only two MA pitchers (McAlexander and Miller) have thrown in the six playoff games going into the state championship series.
“We have plenty of pitching depth, too,” Jenkins said.
Most of all, he credits his three seniors – Hoyt, McAlexander and Rappa.
“They’re not afraid to say ‘hop on my back.’ They’ve carried us,” Jenkins said.
Game one of the Class AA state title series was played at Central Private (in Central, La.) Tuesday. The series swings to the Patriot Field Friday at 5 p.m. for games two and three (if needed).
Marshall Academy, in a record-setting year, has played for a state championship in all three major boys sports this school year – finishing second in football and first in basketball. Next up is baseball.
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