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Gators skinned

Earlier this week, Pike Liberal Arts was voted the number one team in AISA baseball rankings.

On Friday afternoon they put that ranking to the test against the former top team, Glenwood at Butch Austin Field.

And when it was all said and done, it was the Patriots that proved they deserved the ranking, for at least another week, with a 7-6 victory over the Gators.

“This was a big win for our program,” head coach Butch Austin said after the game.

“We haven’t beaten Glenwood twice in a season since I have been here.

“Yesterday during practice, our guys were quiet. We did well (Friday), maybe we should be quiet from now on,” the coach joked.

The team’s ace pitcher this season, Will Starling, got the start for PLAS and even though he was shaky at times, got the job done.

The senior pitched five and a third innings for the Patriots, striking out seven while giving up 11 hits and five runs.

“Will pitched great for the first three or four innings then he just gave out towards the end,” Austin said.

“He still had a good day though.”

The win was Starling’s seventh of the season, which is a team best.

“I thought I pitched pretty well,” Starling said. “In the sixth, everything I was throwing was up and they took advantage of it.”

“This is a pretty big win for us. This is a game that will help continue building our confidence for the postseason.”

PLAS scored three quick runs in the first inning thanks to back-to-back singles from Sam Carroll and Logan Stewart.

Carroll drove in Try Walters, who doubled earlier in the inning and Nick McLaughlin, who singled earlier while Stewart drove in Justin McLaughlin, who reached base on a walk.

The Gators would strike back with a run of their own in the top half of the second, but would remain scoreless for the next two innings.

In the bottom of the fourth, the Patriots would put four on the board highlighted by back-to-back doubles from Ross Hixon and Walters.

Again, Glenwood would respond with run of its own in the top half of the following inning, cutting the PLAS lead to 7-2.

In the top of the sixth is when Starling got into some trouble, walking a batter before surrendering three consecutive singles and giving up three runs.

The Patriots got out of the innings thanks to two strikeouts by Hixon who replaced Starling on the mound with the bases loaded.

After failing to add on to the lead, Hixon returned to the mound for a save opportunity in the top half of the seventh.

After giving up run to cut the lead to 7-6 and with a runner on third with two outs, Hixon was able to get a strikeout to end the game.

The win was the second against Glenwood this season, which was something that had not happened in nearly 20 years.

The win improves the team to 23-3 on the season and also gives PLAS a two game lead in the region, with two games left to go in the regular season.

At the plate, the Patriots were led by Walters, who finished 3-3 with three doubles an RBI and two runs.

Justin McLaughlin also finished 3-3, adding an RBI and a run.

“This was a big win for us,” Walters said.

“We came into the game focused as a team. We wanted to prove that we should be the No. 1 team (in AISA).

“We are happy to be (ranked No. 1) and we want to stay there,” the shortstop added.