Playing to finish

Published 12:47 am Saturday, May 3, 2014

John Michael Stephens of CHHS throws a no hitter in game one in a 3-0 win over Bibb County Friday in Centreville, Ala.

John Michael Stephens of CHHS throws a no hitter in game one in a 3-0 win over Bibb County Friday in Centreville, Ala.

CHHS Trojans tap into mental toughness to advance to semifinals

By Dan Smith

CENTREVILLE, AL – John Michael Stephens threw a no-hitter in the first game and the Trojans of Charles Henderson High overcame a 5-0 deficit to win the second game against Bibb County Friday in the third round of the Class 4A Alabama High School Athletic Association baseball playoffs at Bibb County.
The Trojans won the first game 3-0 and rallied for three runs in the bottom of the sixth in the second contest to defeat the Choctaws 9-6.
“Something we try to emphasize all year long is to finish,” Head Coach Derek Irons said following the game. “We place emphasis on mental toughness, and to overcome adversity. We certainly found ourself in a lot of adversity down 5-0 in the third inning of the second game, but we got the momentum and hung on to the end.
“John Michael was so good on the mound in the first game. He gives a great effort every single time, and we don’t always score a lot of runs when he pitches. But he was dominant today, and I am very proud of him as a senior.”
With the two wins, CHHS now will travel to Childersburg this upcoming Friday. Childersburg defeated Andalusia 2-1 and 12-5.
Stephens was dominating in the opener, allowing no runs on no hits, striking out nine, walking two, and never allowing a base runner past second.
The Trojans scored in the top of the first inning of Game 1 when Hunter Baggett reached first on an infield single, advanced to second on a throwing error by the pitcher, and scored on a strong double by Austin Ingram for a 1-0 CHHS lead.
CHHS gave Stephens more to work with in the fourth inning, scoring two runs when Xavius Burden doubled, Nick Lewis singled, Chase Hartley reached on a fielder’s choice, and Burden and Hartley later scored on a single by Reiley Fox for the 3-0 advantage in the top of the fourth.
Stephens struck out four of the last six batters he faced to seal the win for the Trojans
In the nightcap, Bibb County broke out to a 5-0 lead through three innings on six hits, before the Trojans began to chip away.
CHHS cut the lead to 5-3 in the bottom of the third inning when Fox reached on a bunt single, Hunter Baggett singled, John Johnson doubled, Chase Smartt walked and Ingram doubled to cut the margin to 5-3.
The Trojans tacked on another run in the bottom of the fourth inning when Jason Fleming singled, Fox laid down another bunt single, and Fleming scored on a single by Baggett.
Bibb County went ahead 6-4 in the top of the fifth inning, but the Trojans answered in the bottom half of that inning for two runs to tie the score at 6-6.
Ingram raked another double, and courtesy runner Wright Graning scored following singles by Lewis and Chase Hartley. Fleming drove in the second run of the inning on a fielder’s choice.
Tied 6-6 entering the bottom of the sixth inning, the Trojans broke the game open for three runs when Baggett walked, Johnson advanced him with a sacrifice bunt, Smartt and Burden were hit by pitches, and with two outs, Lewis was credited with three RBI’s as a wild pitch scored Baggett from third, and Lewis laced a single up the middle to score Smartt and Burden for the 9-6 lead.
Relief pitching sealed the win for the Trojans in the sixth and seventh innings, as Ingram came in to retire six of the seven batters he faced, striking out two and allowing one single.
In the first game the Trojans collected seven hits, as Lewis was 2-for-3 and Baggett, Smartt, Ingram, Burden and Fox each had hits.
Baggett, Ingram, Lewis and Fox each had two hits in the second game, while Johnson, Smartt, Burden, Hartley and Fleming each had hits.

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