Published 1:13 am Saturday, May 17, 2014

Charles Henderson players hoist the trophy after winning the 2014 AHSAA 4A State Championship Friday at Riverwalk Stadium. (Photo/Thomas Graning)

Charles Henderson players hoist the trophy after winning the 2014 AHSAA 4A State Championship Friday at Riverwalk Stadium. (Photo/Thomas Graning)

Charles Henderson bounces back on Day 2, defeats Ardmore to capture second state title

As his team dog-piled on the pitcher’s mound at Riverwalk Stadium, celebrating its second-consecutive state championship, Charles Henderson head coach Derek Irons stood on the top step of the dugout and soaked it all in.

He had just witnessed his team rally for back-to-back wins to claim the 4A state championship at Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery. Charles Henderson downed Ardmore 9-1 in game two of the series, before rolling to a 14-3 win in the winner-take-all game three.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

While the championship was officially won Friday night, Irons said the seeds were planted just a few days after he arrived at Charles Henderson over a half-decade ago.

“These guys that are seniors were seventh-graders when I got to Charles Henderson,” Irons said. “We don’t know anything else than each other. They trust that process that we drill in every day. They just don’t ever flinch. The process is huge for us, and it has paid off two years in a row.”

In the third game, Ardmore plated two runs and forced the Trojans to respond. Irons said his players never flinched and did exactly what the proven formula said to do.

John Johnson drew a walk and then showed off his wheels. He stole second and third cleanly. On the steal of third, the Ardmore catcher fired the throw in to left field, allowing Johnson to score the Trojans first run and get the wheels in motion.

“John drew the walk, and put pressure on the defense,” said Irons. “We didn’t take the lead, but that play was huge for us to get back in the position to have big inning in the second.”

Charles Henderson used a seven-run second to distance themselves from the Tigers. The Trojans sent 10 men to the plate in the inning, scoring four runs. Three of the inning’s four runs came on a massive home run to left field from Austin Ingram.

Ingram, who was named series MVP, said Irons told him to sit back and find his pitch.

“I thought I saw the ball real well today,” said Ingram. “He threw me a fast ball inside, and I was early and fouled it off. Coach Irons told me to sit back. The next pitch was in the exact same spot. I sat back, trusted my hands and it just flew.”

Pitchers Xavius Burden and Ingram held Ardmore in check in the Friday twin bill. The Tigers were held to 12 hits in the two games combined, and never seriously threatened the Trojans in either game two or three.

Burden used a dominating breaking ball to pace the Trojans to the first win, while Ingram used pinpoint control of his fastball in game two.

Burden said he thought back to the run to the football state title last fall while he was on the mound.

“It all started during football,” Burden said. “We faced a lot of adversity then and had a lot of hard practices. We lost in the championship, but it carried over to baseball and helped us through.”

Johnson, along with Ingram and Burden, were on the state runner-up football team, and feels the disappointment he felt in December is somewhat washed away with another baseball state title.

“It takes some away, but it still hurts deep down inside,” Johnson said. “You always want to win the big game, but this does patch it up a good little bit.”

The championship caps off back-to-back state titles for Charles Henderson, a first in the storied history of the program. Each of the players weighed on which was their favorite, but Irons said picking his favorite title would be like trying to pick a favorite child.

“Both are vastly different, but both are extremely enjoyable,” said Irons. “This year was hardly a given. We lost our top two pitchers and the 4A Hitter of the Year, but these guys came back in August ready to work. They did as much as I could possibly ask for.”

Before getting to, and rolling through, game three, Charles Henderson entered with its back against the wall in game two. Following a 6-0 shutout loss in game one Thursday night, the Trojans struck early in the second game to roll to the win.

The Trojans took advantage of multiple Ardmore errors to jump out an early 4-0 lead.

Hunter Baggett opened the game with a hard ground ball that went through the legs of the Ardmore second baseman. Following a bunt single by John Johnson, Austin Ingram doubled to the left field corner scoring the game’s first two runs. Nick Lewis drove in Ingram with a sacrifice to left.

Charles Henderson plated three more runs in the fourth inning by stringing together three hits, including a double off the bat of Chase Hartley.

Irons said the fast start in the second game paved the way to the state title.

“Our philosophy is always to put pressure on the defense and make other teams feel the pressure,” Irons said. “Our guys fully bought in to it, and never wavered. This truly is a remarkable bunch of guys. I love each and every one of them, and wouldn’t pick a different group of guys in the world. Today was about this team. Today was about Team 84 and the Charles Henderson Trojans.”

The state title is Charles Henderson’s third.