Pike Liberal rallies to down Fort Dale, advances to semifinals of AISA playoffs

Published 12:05 am Saturday, April 26, 2014

Butch Austin has seen over 500 games as head coach of the Pike Liberal Arts Patriots, but said he will remember Friday’s matchup against Fort Dale for the rest of his life.

Brian Adams belted a two-run single in the bottom of the sixth to break 5-5 tie, and allow Pike to advance to the semi-finals of the AISA playoffs, with a 7-5 win over the Eagles.

Tullie Everett and Chandler Avant walked to lead off the inning, and Connor Vowell punched a bunt past the pitcher to load the bases for Adams.

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Adams turned on 2-1 pitch and lined a shot to the outfield, scoring the go-ahead runs of the game.

“Brian was due for a big hit,” said Austin. “It was the biggest he has had in a long time, and we needed it. I couldn’t be happier for him.”

Everett stared the game on the mound, but handed the ball over to Vowell in the sixth inning. Vowell, who had control issues in a brief appearance on Friday, took command of the strike zone over the in the late innings and shut down the hot Fort Dale bats.

Vowell worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth and pitched a perfect seventh inning to give the Pats the win.

“What a difference a day makes,” Austin said. “Connor had trouble yesterday, but came back today and pitched a great ball game. These kids never stop amazing me. I am proud to be there coach.”

The play of the day might have taken place in the top of the second inning. Pike left fielder Hayes Lee dove for a bloop hit, and the ball rolled past him to the warning track.

Avant raced to the wall from shortstop, picked up the loose ball and fired a bullet to the plate record the second out of the inning and keep a run from scoring.

Avant also had a pair of doubles at the plate on Friday.

“It was a great ballgame today,” Austin. “I have seen a lot of them, but today is up there with the best I have ever been a part of. Fort Dale made plays, and we did too. I’m just happy we made the ones to win.”

With the win, Pike advances to the semi-finals of the AISA playoffs to meet rival Tuscaloosa Academy.

The Patriots beat Tuscaloosa to win the 2012 AISA AAA State Championship, and the Knights eliminated Pike in the second round of the playoffs last season.

The Knights and Patriots will renew their rivalry Thursday in Troy.