Pike Liberal Arts splits with Tuscaloosa to force Game 3 of AISA championship series

Published 11:37 pm Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Chandler Avant picks up a base hit against Tuscaloosa Academy in the AISA Class AAA state championship series on Wednesday. (Photo/Tyler Myers)

Game 1 Box Score

Game 2 Box Score

From the highest of highs to lowest of lows. Back up and down again. Roller coaster, topsy-turvy, and everything in between. The Pike Liberal Arts baseball team felt a slew of emotions on Wednesday as they split with Tuscaloosa Academy in the Alabama Independent School Association Class AAA state championship series.

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The Patriots scored 11 runs in the first inning of Game 1 en route to an 18-1 thumping of the Knights. In Game 2, Pike erased a four-run deficit in the final inning only to fall in the bottom half of the seventh, 5-4.

Though disappointed, Josh Starling shared the pulse of a determined team.

“We’ll be ready tomorrow,” he said. “Let’s just hope they are.”

The Patriots, who have lost the past two state title series, will face Tuscaloosa in Game 3 at 11a.m. today with the winner claiming the Class AAA crown.

In the opener, Pike Liberal Arts jumped all over the Knights, scoring 11 runs in the first inning.

Tuscaloosa starter Robey Smalley allowed eight of the runs and recorded just one out before being relieved.

The Patriots sent 16 batters to the plate in the frame and collected six hits, two coming off of Starling’s bat.

Pike would tack on a run in the second when Nick McLaughlin singled home Dustin Newman.

Sophomore Chandler Avant delivered double with the bases loaded to add three more in the third. Avant would later score on a Lawson Stewart single to left field.

Avant finished the game 2-for-3 with four RBI while Stewart picked up the win on the mound.

To add insult to injury, Dalton Harris blasted a two-run home run in the fourth to cap the Patriots scoring.

“We swung the bat really well to start the game. That was an awesome way to start a game,” Harris said. “The home run was something you dream about.”

Harris was 2-for-3 on the game with a trio of RBI.

McLaughlin, Starling, and Taytom Barnes also finished with two hits each.

The one Patriot in the middle of the lineup who did not have a hit in the fist game, picked up the biggest one of the second game.

After being held to just five hits in the first six innings, Pike scored two runs to cut the Tuscaloosa lead in half, 4-2.

Blake Floyd, who was 0-for-3 in Game 1, stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and one out – the tying run on second base.

Floyd ripped a double into left center field to score Dustin Newman and Chandler Avant.

“He is tough in that situation,” head coach Butch Austin said. “With the game on the line, I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have up than him.”

After an intentional walk, the Patriot offense would falter on a pop out and called strike three to end the inning and leave the bases full.

The Knights would double with one out in the seventh then score one batter later on a single up the middle.

“That’s the way it goes sometimes,” Starling said. “We’ll come back tomorrow ready.”

Visit www.troymessenger.com to view LIVE STATS of Game 3 or follow messenger_wes on Twitter for updates.