Madison Academy downs Piedmont to advance to 3A baseball championshipPublished 10:41am Thursday, May 15, 2014
By Budd McLaughlin | For The Record
MONTGOMERY — “All hands on deck” doesn’t relate only to seafaring situations.
In baseball, when teams are playing a deciding game in a playoff/championship series, “all hands on deck” means every player and every pitcher should be ready to step in.
Last Saturday, Madison Academy had all hands on deck in a Game 3, 7-5 come-from-behind semifinals win over Piedmont.
It’s most likely the Mustangs (32-13) will need all hands again when they face Sipsey Valley (36-17) today in a best-of-three Class 3A state championship series in Montgomery. Game times are 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Riverwalk Park. A third game, if necessary, will be Friday at 1 p.m. at Patterson Field.
“I am really proud of our boys,” said Mustangs head coach Mike Good. “They hung together when we got down early … Just a great team win with timely hitting and great contributions from our pitching staff.
“All members of our team have worked so hard to reach this point and are poised to push it harder.”
The Mustangs started their regular No. 3 starter Bo McLaughlin before Good turned to Jake Christa to help quell a Piedmont uprising in the fourth inning. Then, Game 1 starter Taylor Clemons relieved Christa in the 6th and started the 7th and Game 2 starter Greg Lambert came on after Clemons gave up a leadoff walk in the 7th and retired the side in order.
Madison Academy took an early 1-0 lead after a deep double by Logan McDonald, who was driven in by an Emerson Brooks single in the second, but it was short-lived. With two outs in the third, the Bulldogs capitalized on two Mustang errors and scored four runs to take a 4-1 lead and seemingly grab some momentum. In the bottom of the inning, McLaughlin singled and later scored from third when the Piedmont first baseman threw across the diamond to try and get him out.
Then, with one out in the fourth, Piedmont’s Caleb Adams beat out an infield single and Good brought in Christa to pitch. The freshman got an out from the first batter he faced but the Bulldogs had back-to-back singles to score Adams for a 5-2 lead.
The Mustangs cut the lead to 5-3 in the fourth and after Christa blanked the Bulldogs in the top of the fifth the Mustang bats came alive. Lambert led off with a walk and, with one out, Cody Littlejohn, McDonald, Christa, Brooks and Will Acuff all singled to give the Mustangs a 7-5 lead.
“McLaughlin, our starting pitcher, kept battling until we gave the ball to Christa,” Good said. “He slowed Piedmont down and we were fortunate enough to put a big inning together ourselves.”
However, the Bulldogs mounted another threat in the top of the sixth when they loaded the bases on three walks. Clemons came on with two outs to get the final out of the inning. After Clemons gave up a walk to open the seventh, Lambert got the final three outs to record the save.
“I realize things got a little tense for Christa in the sixth, when Piedmont loaded the bases, but Clemons did an excellent job of working us out of the inning,” Good said. “Then, Lambert. What an effort in closing the door in the seventh.”
Brooks went 3-for-3 with 2 RBIs and McDonald and Christa each had a pair of singles to lead the Mustangs. The Bulldogs were held to seven hits in the game.
The Mustangs take on a Sipsey Valley team that knocked off top-ranked American Christian in three games. Several players and coaches from the Bears were at Saturday’s game, which was moved to Gadsden, after heavy rains last Friday night made Piedmont’s field unplayable. The Bears overcame a four-run deficit in their Game 3 to beat American Christian 9-6.
“We look forward to the challenge that lies ahead in taking on the Sipsey Valley Bears,” Good said. “We know they will be well prepared and their record speaks for itself.”