PLAS Patriots advance in AISA tournament

Published 3:00 am Saturday, May 2, 2015

MONTGOMERY — The Pike Liberal Arts Patriots stood their ground Friday winning two out of three of their games advancing to the second day of the AISA State Tournament held at Lagoon Park.

The Patriots were able to rally in the last two innings of play against the Morgan Academy Senators to win 7-5 after trailing Morgan 5-4 and advance to the second round of tournament play.

The Patriots started off the day facing the Tuscaloosa Academy Knights and after several errors in the start of the first inning, the Knights triumphed over the Patriots 3-0. Lady Patriots head coach Allie Park said her girls had not been playing like themselves at the start of Friday’s tournament attributing much of the loss to the errors made against the Knights and state-tournament jitters.

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“We made errors all day today, and we didn’t play like ourselves at all,” Park said. “In the post game talk after Morgan, we talked about how we’re really going to come out tomorrow and get hits early rather than late. I think we want it so badly, and they’re really pushing themselves and trying so hard that we’ve just been making mistakes that we shouldn’t make and we usually don’t make.”

After committing errors in the first inning, the Patriots held the Knights to just the three runs they had been able to score in the first inning, and Park said keeping the Knights from scoring anymore runs really helped up the momentum for the Patriots’ second game of the day.

“The three runs were all in the first inning, and we just didn’t hit at all,” Park said. “Bailey Rushing pitched a phenomenal job, which helped them. I know she was tired, and she’s still coming back from her injury she’s had over spring break. I think it’s really said a lot just how she is physically and mentally and being a freshman.”

The Patriots faced the Lee Scott Academy Warriors and made quick work of the Auburn team scoring four runs in the fourth inning. The Patriots secured their lead in the third inning tacking on three more runs, and Park said the bats really carried the team during the second outing of the day.

“It’s a great feeling to finally have seen them play and hit the way I know they can in that game,” Park said. “It’s almost more fun coaching and watching knowing how much they want this. It’s so great to see how passionate they are for the game, and they’re always so excited.”

But, the Patriots clutch game came last of the night against the Morgan Academy Senators out of Selma, a team the Patriots have faced several times throughout the year.

Pike came out of the gate fast, scoring early in the first inning and later pushing their lead over the Senators by another run in the top of the fourth and two more in the top of the fifth. The Patriots were able to hold Morgan from scoring until the bottom of the fifth inning when the Senators would be able to score two on a Kendall Veach two-run home run for the Senators.

Pike came up short in the top of the sixth, and the Senators tacked on another three runs in the bottom of the sixth with Lauren Criswell, Cassidy Lawrence and Jessica Fuller all scoring for the Senators.

With the Patriots trailing the Senators 5-5 heading into the seventh inning, the Patriots came out fired up and ready to play, Park said, which was what really changed the game’s momentum for the better.

Mya Terry, centerfielder for the Lady Pats, started the inning off flying-out to the Morgan centerfielder, but the Patriots rebounded quickly. Lead-off hitter and senior Kayla Benton hit a clutch-double for the Patriots putting a man in game-tying position, and after Bailey Rushing hit straight to the shortstop, catcher Amberlyn Baker hit a double that brought in Benton tying the Patriots and the Senators. Third baseman and relief pitcher Sam Yarborough hit a single to left field batting in Baker and securing the Lady Pats lead. Danny Brown, first baseman for the Pats, only singled at her last at bat, but during her time at the plate Yarborough had been able to steal two bases advancing her to third and scoring position.

Yarborough scored the winning run for the Patriots against the Senators. Park said the final inning of play had been the most important for the Patriots up to this point in the tournament, and Park said she could not have been prouder of her girls not letting the Senators getting ahead get them down.

“This is something that we’ve really talked about all week, and it’s something the girls have really bought into,” Park said. “If someone gets down, they’ve really done a good job about picking each other up. I’m very pleased that they’ve actually gone through with it, because it’s easy to say, ‘Hey, someone gets down you pick them up.’ They’re really following through with that, and I think that’s what makes our girls special and really great.”

The Patriots will face the Monroe Academy Volunteers today at 10 a.m. The Volunteers beat the Tuscaloosa Academy Knights 5-4 to end their gameplay Friday.