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Long trip home

Cody Philen made sure to touch home plate as he barreled home on a passed ball to send the Monroe Academy Volunteers to the state championship series for the first time in school history Thursday night. Monroe took out Pike Liberal 7-6 in Monroeville.

Philen, the Monroe senior, blasted a home run in the sixth inning against the Patriots, but jumped over home plate in celebration and was called out after a Pike appeal. Pike held onto the 2-1 lead they had before the blast, but Monroe put together six runs on three hits and five free passes for the win.

“I didn’t know what to think when I was called out after the home run,” Philen said. “I couldn’t believe what was happening. On the passed ball I heard our fans going crazy as I was coming home and I just wanted to make sure I touched the plate. Baseball doesn’t get any better than this.”

Monroe head coach Mitchell Tuberville said he was not surprised Philen was the one to score the winning run.

“He (Philen) is one of our seniors and it was fitting that he scored the final run of the game after what happened,” Tuberville said. “He is our best player and I was happy for him because he was so upset after he missed home plate.”

The No. 3 Patriots (19-6) broke the game open with four runs in the top of the seventh after Philen missed the plate, but the No. 5 Volunteers (27-8) did not waste a second in the bottom of the inning.

Three straight hits cut the Pike lead to 6-2 and two walks and a sacrifice fly later the score was 6-4 in favor of Pike. Ross Hixon relieved starter Bradley Floyd on the mound for Pike and walked in two more runs to tie the score at 6-6.

Will Starling relieved Hixon and on his third pitch the game was over and Monroe was headed to Montgomery to take on No. 2 Glenwood for the 3A championship.

“That is just a bad and upsetting way to end a season,” PLAS head coach Butch Austin said. “But I am so proud of these guys for their effort this year. I would like to thank coach Johnny (Dunn), coach Bob Pickett, the fans, coach (Steven) Kilcrease and Ms. (Ceil) Sikes for everything they have done this year. We had a great year and everyone should be proud of these boys.”

Tuberville said it was hard to watch the Patriots after the game.

“I feel bad for Pike because they gave it such a good effort and they showed so much class out there,” he said. “I hate that someone had to lose that game.”

The Patriots got on the board first in the third inning when Ross Hixon walked and scored on a single by Justin McLaughlin. The Volunteers answered in the bottom of the inning to tie the score at 1-1. The score remained 1-1 until Alex Adams reached on an error in the sixth inning and pinch runner Lawson Stewart scored on a sacrifice fly from Trey Walters to put Pike up 2-1. The fiasco at home plate occurred in the sixth and Logan Stewart and Walters each had two-RBI singles in the top of the seventh to put Pike up 6-1 heading into the final frame.

Philen crossed the plate after 11 batters came up in the bottom of the seventh.

Logan Stewart led the Patriots at the plate, going 2-for-3 with two RBIs. Walters had three RBIs and Floyd, Starling, Adams and McLaughlin each had one hit.

Floyd allowed six runs on seven hits, struck out two and walked three. Hixon took the loss, allowing one run, striking out one, walking two and hitting one.

Click here for a photo gallery of the semifinal action