Two most recent state champs meet in AISA semifinals

Published 10:29 pm Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Butch Austin’s favorite baseball memory came at the expense of Tuscaloosa Academy. One of his more disappointed moments followed a game against the Knights as well.

Austin and the Pike Liberal Arts Patriots captured a wild 15-10 win over TA in the 2012 AISA Championship series to claim the title. Last season, Pike ran in to a Tuscaloosa buzz saw last year in the third round of the playoffs, and didn’t get a chance to defend their crown.

Austin remembers both days.

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“We got the best of them in the championship game, which is my favorite game I have been a part,” Austin said with a smile. “Last year wasn’t nearly as fun, so maybe we will be the happy ones again this year.”

Pike and Tuscaloosa have played twice already this season, with the Knights winning both. Tuscaloosa knocked off the Patriots in the finals of Pike’s Jonah McWaters Tournament 8-7, and also downed Pike in their own tournament.

Four proven, quality senior pitcher -Robey Smalley, Lathan Johnson, Austin Menard and Pierce Goodbread -, leads the Knights and have their eyes set on repeating their 2013 state title.

Pike, fresh off a thrilling series against Fort Dale and led by senior’s Chandler Avant, Tullie Everett, Brian Adams and Myles Loving, is looking for a little magic of its own this weekend.

“It is time for us to put it all together,” said Austin, who announced earlier in the year he will retire at the end of the season. “We have played well in spurts a lot of time this season. We need to play well all the time and everything will take care of themselves. We know Tuscaloosa and they know us. It should be a great series, and hopefully, if everything goes right, we can get them.”

The semifinal series between Pike Liberal Arts and Tuscaloosa will begin with a doubleheader and is set for a 4 p.m. first pitch Thursday at Butch Austin Field in Troy. The second game will begin approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first.

The “if” game will be played Friday.