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BACK TO BACK: Patriots rally to win AISA state championship for second consecutive year

Some called Morgan Academy the best AISA team ever coming into the championship series, but the Pike Patriots proved experience matters in their 13-8 win over Morgan Academy on Thursday afternoon, giving them their second consecutive state championship.

The Senators came into the series with an undefeated 29-0 record. After losing game one 13-1, the Patriots took home the title once again with back-to-back wins.

“That team right there is unbelievable,” said Patriot head coach Allen Ponder. “You don’t see a group of kids like that come along together on the same team. Our kids battled, battled and battled. I can’t say enough about our group of kids. It’s been an unbelievable two days.”

The Patriots struggled with errors in game one, but in games two and three, it was Morgan that made untimely errors, including three more on Thursday.

“There haven’t been a lot of times when they (Morgan) had a lot of pressure put on them because they have always been able to extend leads,” Ponder said. “For us, our point of emphasis was to put pressure on them and make sure that no matter what, we make them make plays. When they made a few mistakes, we were able to take advantage of it.”

There was a total of three lead changes in the game and just one inning that didn’t see any runs on the board.

The final lead change in the top of the seventh inning. Down 8-7 Levi Sikes started a seventh inning rally when he reached first base after being hit with a pitch. By inning’s end the Patriots sent 11 batters to the plate and scored six runs on three hits, including a two-run single by Levi Sikes to take a comfortable 13-8 lead.

“I was either going to be a hero or a goat,” Ponder said. “With the leadoff man at first base everybody in the stands are saying bunt him over. If we just tie it up, we get beat. I knew we had to score multiple runs in that inning to win the game. We got some clutch hits right there and pushed runs across.”

Senior Chandler Golden got the call as the Patriots starter. Golden pitched all seven innings and struck out nine batters.

“He is an absolute bulldog,” Ponder said. “It’s hard to explain to a kid before a game that they are going to hit you around the ballpark, but you have to stay in the game. He understands what kind of lineup he was facing, but he also understood that as long as he kept us in the game, we were going to have a chance to win.”

Like they did in game one on Wednesday, the Pike Patriots jumped on the board in the first inning. Davis Allen reached on a one-out single and Jade Sikes walked. Both came around to score on a double by Tristan Carter that banged off the wall in left.

The Senators wasted little time in the bottom half of the inning. An RBI triple by Brayton Brown and a two-run single by Joseph Estes gave the Senators their first lead of the game.

After a scoreless second inning, the Patriots picked up a one-out double by Jade Sikes, who came around to score on an error by the Senator third baseman David Ducote, tying the game at three.

Golden started the bottom of the inning with two hit-batters and a walk to load the bases for the Senators. After picking up two quick outs, Matthew Davis sneaked a base hit between Levi Sikes and Jade Sikes, allowing two runners to score, giving the Senators a 5-3 lead after three.

Davis got the first two outs of the fourth quickly, but a single, a walk and dropped third strike loaded the bases for the Patriots. Allen reached on an error and Jade Sikes was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to drive in the tying run.­