PLAS finishes perfect at home
The Pike Liberal Arts Patriots had developed a reputation of being an explosive offensive ball club coming into Friday’s senior day matchup with Fort Dale, which would prove to be no exception.
The Patriots pounded the Eagles in a 19-4 win in five innings.
“We just hit the ball again,” said PLAS head coach Butch Austin. “We got some good pitching from Sam Carroll and Will Starling, and we played good defense behind them for a change.”
Fort Dale took a 2-0 lead on a PLAS throwing error in the first, but once the Patriots got up to bat, it was pretty much all over.
The first three Patriot batters all walked, causing Fort Dale to switch pitchers before a single out had been recorded.
Nick McLaughlin drove in a run, followed by a two-RBI double from Sam Carroll just two batters later to put the Patriots on top for good.
The inning was not over, however, as PLAS once again loaded the bases, and Blake Floyd lofted a ball over the left field wall for a grand slam and a 7-2 PLAS lead.
Three batters later, it was senior Trey Walters’ turn, as he hit a line drive over the big wall in left field that appeared to still be rising when it cleared the fence.
“It was real big for me to be able to come out and see the baseball the way I saw it,” Walters said. “I was relaxed at the plate. There was no pressure, so when he threw me a changeup that was about belt-high, I just did what I was taught.”
Walters’ shot made it 9-2 in favor of the Patriots, and Fort Dale could never recover.
PLAS got another home run in the second, this time a two-run shot off the bat of Sam Carroll.
Carroll also started the game on the mound for PLAS, and pitched the first four innings.
He allowed just three hits and two earned runs before giving way to senior Will Starling in the fifth.
Carroll wasn’t done after his second-inning home run, though.
He came up again with a runner on in the fourth, and again hit the ball out of the park, this time a towering shot over the right center field fence.
PLAS went on to add six more runs in the fourth, two of those coming on walks.
Two of the other runs came on RBIs from both Justin and Nick McLaughlin.
Carroll added the final two RBIs on a single to left field.Carroll finished the game 4-4 with two home runs and eight RBIs.
Walters went 1-2 with a home run, two RBIs and two walks.
Nick McLaughlin had two RBIs and Floyd finished 1-4 with four RBIs and a home run.
While the Patriots did pick up a region win in their final regular season home game, it was somewhat of a bittersweet moment.
The regular season careers of seniors Walters, Starling, Justin McLaughlin, Logan Stewart and Ross Hixon came to an end.
“These guys have meant everything for this program,” Austin said. “We’ve got a great group of five that is as good as you can find anywhere. They’ve been leaders, and they’ve made this team what it is. You hate to see them go, but you know they’ve accomplished a lot here.”
With senior day now behind them, the Patriots will now turn their attention to their goal of bringing home a state championship.
The AISA playoffs begin April 23, and Walters said the Patriots must keep hitting at a high level if they hope to have success.
“We’ve just got to hope our bats stay hot,” Walters said.
“We need to keep swinging the way we’ve been swinging, and also focus on our defense so that we can keep helping our pitchers out as much as possible.”
The Patriots’ first-round opponent has yet to be determined.