Pike Liberal Arts players celebrate after winning the AISA Class AAA state championship series. (Photo/Tyler Myers)

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Pike Liberal Arts claims AISA state championship

Published 11:30pm Thursday, May 10, 2012

Game 1 Box Score

Game 2 Box Score

Game 3 Box Score

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MONTGOMERY – Pike Liberal Arts claimed the AISA Class AAA baseball state championship with a comeback that will go down as one of the greatest in the league’s history.

Trailing 10-1, the Patriots scored 14 runs in the fifth inning to take a 15-10 lead that would stand to not only give Pike the game and the best-of-three series victory but also hand the school its first ever state championship in baseball.

The fifth inning of Game 3 will arguably stand as part of Pike and AISA lore for years to come.

“It is unbelievable,” an emotional Butch Austin said. “To win the way this team did is just unbelievable.”

Chandler Avant led off the fifth with a solo home run. What seemed meaningless at the time turned out to be the spark that ignited an offensive engine primed for full throttle acceleration.

Taytom Barnes makes a throw to first base (Photo/Tyler Myers)

The Patriots (31-6) would pound out seven hits off of four different Tuscaloosa pitchers. Pike also sent 19 batters to the plate in the inning with Avant coming to the dish three times.

“You could watch baseball games from now until you’re 90 years old and never see that again,” Austin said. “To be a part of that and be a part of this team is special.”

It was especially unique for Pike’s head coach of 17 years. As a coach, Austin has reached both the AHSAA and AISA state title game a combined seven times, this being his first championship victory.

Austin was an assistant coach at Charles Henderson under Mike Hogan from 1977-1989 before making the jump to Pike in 1993.

Pike Liberal Arts reached the AISA state championship game in 1997 but lost on a walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Patriots returned to the final round in 2010 and 2011 but fell to Glenwood both times.

“It’s a good feeling,” Austin said. “It’s something that can never be taken away from these kids.”

Pike Liberal Arts with the bases loaded in the fifth inning of Game 3 of the AISA Class AAA state championship series against Tuscaloosa Academy. (Photo/ Tyler Myers)

Tuscaloosa built a 10-1 lead over the first 4 1/2 innings scoring two in the first, three in the second, one in the fourth, and four in the top of the fifth.

“The seniors got together and told the team that it wasn’t over until the last out,” senior catcher Blake Floyd said. “We were a little down in the dugout but (Avant’s) home run helped because hitting is contagious.”

If hitting is contagious, Avant’s solo blast in the fifth started an infectious outbreak.

Avant was named Most Valuable Player after the game for his 7-for-11, seven RBI performance in the series.

“It feels good to be the top team in the state and know that you won a state championship,” Avant said. “It was frustrating because their pitcher kept us off balance. On the home run, I just tried to stay down on something and start a rally.”

Pike Liberal Arts catcher Blake Floyd hugs head coach Butch Austin after winning the AISA Class AAA state championship. (Photo/Tyler Myers)

Josh Starling would get the start on the mound but would be relieved with no outs in the second after allowing five runs.

“It was actually the most calm I’ve ever been after a start like that,” he said. “This team hadn’t given up all year and I knew we were going to stay in it.”

Despite the outing on the mound, Starling was 2-for-3 at the plate in the final game.

Reid Dickey recorded the final two outs in the top of the fifth to pick up the win.

Lawson Stewart tossed the sixth and seventh to close the door on the Knights.

And the player who caught the final out – a fly ball to right field. Dustin Newman would take that honor.

“I was just making sure I caught it with two hands,” Newman said. “After that, I just looked at it.”


  1. legitbb

    Wow, AISA competition must be weak. 18-1 then lost 5-4 then the fiasco of a third game. That is comparable to dixie majors. All you have to do is win 2 rounds and you go to the state championship, which turned out to be a dandy. I hope the citizens of Troy really aren’t considering this to be one of the best teams that have come through Troy. LOL

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  2. honeybadger

    Congratulations Patriots!! I am so proud for Coach Butch!! He is a great coach and I am proud to say that he was mine as well. Could not have happened to a better coach.

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  3. justcurious

    Really enjoyed watching these young men in these games! They should be very proud of these wins and the tenacity they showed even when they were not doing so well! As a resident of Troy, I am proud when any school does well in their sports programs. But as a parent of a proud PLAS student, I am especially proud. CONGRATULATIONS PATRIOTS! I think if we, as adults can’t say something positive about our young people, maybe we should just say nothing.

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  4. legitbb

    tsu1987… first of all you sound like a rec ball coach living vicariously through your son or daughter if we are going to jump to conclusions. this is nothing about CHHS…You must know deep down public schools competition is much more competitive or you wouldn’t have jumped to that conclusion..thats childish. and to be a alumnus from CHHS thats a pretty immature statement. There is nothing wrong with good sound competitive baseball and AISA is a joke.

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  5. bamateach

    I would like to know why “adults”, which I assume most of you who have made comments are, can’t just CONGRATULATE the Pike boys and not try to belittle their feat! They accomplished something that NO other team in the history of the school has managed to do. They did it with NO losses in the play-offs until the 2nd one at state. And as for the one that commented on winning 18-1 then losing 5-4 in the second game of a double header, its been done in EVERY league under the sun. I doubt you’d be saying anything if the Braves and Yankees were playing and one of them won 18-1 and turned around and lost 5-4. But, because its a group of kids, which they still are, you belittle them. And to come back like they did, they are to be commended. I could not be more proud of them. I teach in a local PUBLIC school and I saw the exact type of game situation occur this season, lost one 20-0 and came back and won the next 15-5. SO it doesn’t just occur at a Pike Lib game, it occurs every where. I will quit ranting now. If you have a beef with the game, here is not the place to take it out. Honor these boys and be happy for them! They did a great job! Congratulations Pike!

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  6. bamateach

    And I would also like to commend the Patriots for their come back in yesterday’s game. A lesser team would have given up, but these boys did not! Congratulations again boys!

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