Edgewood continues dominance in baseball; Abbeville sweeps Class A
By Tim Gayle
Edgewood Academy won its eighth consecutive Alabama Independent School Association state championship in baseball, but it didn’t come without some anxious moments on Tuesday evening at Paterson Field.
The Wildcats (35-7) had won the first game in the best-of-three series, 10-0, and were leading the second game 11-4 in the seventh inning when Northside Methodist rallied for four runs. With the potential game-winning run at the plate, Edgewood reliever Michael Taylor threw to third and caught Landon Pilcher off the base.
Pilcher ran home and was tagged out by catcher Jon Johnson to end the game.
“That’s (a play) that we do have in,” Edgewood coach Bobby Carr said of the pickoff play, “and we just felt like it was a perfect time to call it because their best hitter is up at the plate and then another good hitter behind him. We felt like we might catch them sleeping and obviously we did.”
Taylor, who transferred to Edgewood this season from Alabama Christian Academy, was named the series’ Most Valuable Player after pitching a one-hitter in the first game and saving the Wildcats in the second game after Northside Methodist (30-13) staged its seventh-inning rally.
Caleb Sullivan pitched the first six innings and into the seventh before a walk and two singles loaded the bases and ended his day. Christian Smith then took the mound for the Wildcats and got two outs but allowed two runs that trimmed the Knights’ deficit to 11-6. Carr then turned to Taylor, who was catching, but a walk and another single made it 11-8 and brought the potential game-tying run to the plate in Matthew Williams, who had gone 1 for 2 and scored two runs.
On deck was catcher Hunter Lunsford, who had homered earlier in the game and was 3 for 4 with three RBIs. After Williams drove a pitch just foul down the first-base line and Taylor continued to struggle to find a groove, Carr called for the pickoff play.
“He’s a senior and I know all seniors want the ball,” Carr said. “And even though this is his first year here at Edgewood, I’ve seen him play when he was younger and saw how he produced. I knew he was used to being in that situation.”
Taylor and Johnson along with Jackson Tate, Noah Eller and Janias Scott all had a pair of hits in the first game. Tate went 3 for 5 in the second game, while Seth Dobbs, Scott and Johnson each had two hits as the Wildcats pounded out a total of 24 hits, 12 in each game.
For Northside, it was the first state baseball finals for a team that bounced from field to field in the Dothan area after a tornado damaged their home field in February.
“It’s hard to call getting here an accomplishment right now,” said Northside Methodist coach Kaleb Shuman, “but with everything they’ve faced, I couldn’t be more proud of their resilience and their fight. After all the things that happened, just to be here shows how much those boys work and how much they trusted and believed in each other and what kind of team they are.”
Edgewood now has 12 baseball titles, winning the Class AAA title in 2006, the Class A in 2013 and 2014 and the Class AA in 2001, 2002, 2004, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2016.
Abbeville sweeps major sports
After winning state championships in football and basketball, you might have expected Abbeville Christian Academy to feel a little tense heading into the first game of the Alabama Independent School Association’s state baseball tournament on Tuesday morning.
That certainly wasn’t the case with Ashley Carlisle’s group of Generals.
“Pressure is when you’re doing something unexpected,” Carlisle reasoned. “We expect to be here. That’s what they’ve worked for. There’s no pressure when you expect to be somewhere.”
Abbeville senior Griffin Fenn pitched a one-hitter in the first game and the Generals cruised to a 10-run victory in the second to complete a best-of-three series sweep at Paterson Field for the Class A state championship.
It was the fourth state title for Abbeville Christian (24-14), which also won baseball championships in 2003, 2004 and 2009.
“We probably had the best week and a half of practice we’ve had,” Carlisle said. “One thing about senior leadership is the seniors stepped up and played. They told me yesterday not to worry about it. They’ve been on this stage so many times it just feels like home.”
Fenn earned Most Valuable Player honors after facing two over the minimum in the first game while going 1 for 3 with an RBI at the plate, then catching Game 2 and going 3 for 3 at the plate with 5 RBIs and scoring three times.
“He’s a sparkplug,” Carlisle said. “They call him ‘Coach Grif’ sometimes, which is funny because he stays on them a pretty good bit, but he works so hard. He’s that kid who wants to be up at bat in big situations. He wants the ball in his hand in big situations, so he’s right at home in this type of setting.”
Kros Payne went 3 for 3, scored three times and drove in a run and Cody Cain went 2 for 3 in Game 1 as the Generals scored two in the first and two more in the second. That was more than enough for Fenn, who allowed a runner to reach base early on an error but didn’t give up a hit until Matthew Windham’s double in the sixth.
In the second game, Payne allowed just two hits in the five-inning affair shortened by the 10-run mercy rule. Dave Loftin went 3 for 3 with two RBIs and Brody Taylor went 2 for 3 with two RBIs.
For Jackson (16-18), it was their first appearance in the finals since 2011. The Eagles won championships in 1983 and 1987 and reached the semifinals last year in J.D. Phillips’ first year as baseball coach.
“That’s obviously our goal, so it was a little disappointing to come up a little short, but I’m very proud of the guys,” Phillips said. “We had a little bit of an up-and-down season but our (six) seniors really showed leadership and led us here.”
But that was as close as Jackson could get against a determined group of Generals who added another piece of hardware to the trophy case on Tuesday afternoon.
“They’re a very talented bunch,” Phillips said. “Most of those guys have been together and been starting since they were freshmen and sophomores. There is a lot of experience and a lot of talent on that team. Sometimes, you just run into a better team and they were the better team today. My hat’s off to them.”