PLAS seniors long for title

Published 1:28 am Saturday, February 25, 2012

For six seniors on Pike Liberal Arts’ baseball team, something is missing. That something is a Alabama Independent School Association state championship ring.

In a few short months most of their careers will be over. Some of them may never play baseball again, taking a place in the stands to watch new generations of ballplayers take the diamond.

But before they see their time in Patriots uniforms end, the six seniors, Lawson Stewart, Josh Starling, Nick McLaughlin, Blake Floyd, Tanner Free and Dalton Harris have one more chance at glory, and a state championship.

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The Patriots have played in the championship game the past two years, falling to Glenwood both times, but have potential to not only go to the game again but bring home a championship win.

“It would be nice especially senior year,” McLaughlin said. “We came close in the last two and it would mean a lot to win after such close games the last two seasons, a win would be everything senior year.”

Most of the group has been playing together for going on four years, learning how to function as a unit and cooperate with one another.

That unity has already shown itself in 2012, when the Patriots brought down Glenwood in the season opener on Feb. 13, winning 6-0 and allowing their old foe no hits.

“Coming in we expected big things and we still are,” Starling said. “We just hope we can be here and we still are, it felt good to beat Glenwood especially after they beat us the last two seasons. We’ve still got a long way to go but that was a real confidence booster for us.”

Even the senior players who haven’t spent their entire high school career on the baseball team know the importance of this season.

Tanner Free, who was a leader on the school’s basketball team last season, is in his first year under head coach Butch Austin, and has been working hard to contribute to the team.

“It’s nice being on the team and I’m working hard to get in some playing time,” Free said. “I played baseball at Hoover but haven’t played for about two years; I’ve been trying to get back into the routine of things. Practice and hard work are two of the biggest parts of baseball.”

Even though the Patriots have been unsuccessful so far in their pursuit of a championship ring, it seems all the stars are lining up in 2012.

The season not only started off with a major win over Glenwood, but with so much senior experience the team is functioning strongly as a unit that is very comfortable with it’s play style.

“Playing together wee and the chemistry of the team is important,” Floyd said. “Our first two games we worked great as a team and we’ve got to keep it up and have a positive attitude and we’ll make it.”

The Patriots have a lot of potential on their side and postseason prospects are looking better every day, but there is still a mighty challenge ahead of the team.

It’s all seemingly led up to this season, a chance to erase the mistakes of the past two seasons and prove to the state that a Pike Liberal championship was only a matter of time, but it will require the full effort of every player.

“We always talk to each other and communicate as a team,” Stewart said. “We work really well together. It would mean a lot to win we’ve worked hard and practiced all year. We’ve always been a good team and always been good together.”

The Patriots have a long way to go this season, but have all the tools they need to make it to the final game, even if it means another date with Glenwood.

“No doubt it’s fun playing here,” Harris said. “Hopefully this year we can win a state championship. It’ll be a great feeling to win and get a ring and beat Glenwood.”

The Patriots have two road games against Northside Methodist on Saturday and Edgewood on Monday before returning home on Tuesday, Feb. 28, to face Fort Dale Academy at 3:30 p.m.